City’s ‘desperate’ vendors back on the streets

2020-04-07 14:00
Nkosinathi Miya fears he might not get a municipal permit that would allow him to trade during lockdown.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

Nkosinathi Miya fears he might not get a municipal permit that would allow him to trade during lockdown.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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Some of the City’s “desperate” informal traders are already back on the streets before even getting municipal letters permitting them to operate during lockdown.

This comes after the recent government decision to relax the 21-day lockdown regulations to allow informal food traders to resume work.

Those who spoke to The Witness on Monday said it was desperation that pushed them out on the streets. They said they could not wait until Msunduzi gaves them the required trading permits.

“Our families are looking at us to provide for them and we can’t do that if we are sitting at home the whole day.

“It was wrong for government to stop us from working to begin with so we welcome the decision to let us get back to work,” said a fruit seller who wished not to be named.

Andiswa Nxumalo, who has been earning a living as a street vendor since 2007, said the lockdown has been very stressful on the informal trading community. She sells mielies to supplement a child support grant she receives for her three children.

“Most of us street vendors live from hand to mouth so if we don’t work, even for one week, means that I can’t meet all my financial commitments at the end of the month.

“That’s why I was back here as soon as I heard about the relaxation of the regulation on Saturday,” she said on Monday.

Nkosinathi Miya, who sells snacks, fears he might spend the rest of the lockdown period dodging the police as he might not get a letter permitting him to trade.

“Rumour has it only people with existing municipal permits will be given letters authorising them to trade during the lockdown and many of us don’t have those.

“I’ve been trying to get one since 2002 but all my applications haven’t been successful,” he said.

Miya has already had a few run-ins with the police since the lockdown as he tried to continue trading illegally.

“What kind of a man would I be if I let my children starve?

“I’m not stealing from anyone so I should be allowed to stand here on the street and sell whatever I can to feed my family.”

Meanwhile, the informal traders who are not yet allowed to operate — like hairstylists — say the government should have allowed all the vendors to go back to work.

Zanele Mthiyane, who works at a salon at the Market Square Taxi Rank, said the government decision was unfair to the rest of the informal trading community.

“We also have families to support and other financial commitments … It’s not like there’s some sort of compensation fund that we can claim from for days not worked.”

Mthiyane said the government should have at least considered allowing the informal hairstylists to work during month-end week as most of their clients were in the CBD to buy groceries.

“This lockdown has been very stressful. I don’t even know whether I’m going to have money to pay rent at the end of the month.

“I’ll probably have to take a loan to stock up on hair products when we re-open,” she said.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said copies of the letters for permits were given to ward councillors yesterday so that they could be easily accessible to the traders.

Mafumbatha said only those with valid municipal trading licences will be granted permission to sell food during lockdown.

Traders will have to fill in a form provided by councillors and attach copies of the licence, ID and proof of residence to qualify for the permit.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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