STREET vendors operating at the exit of the taxi rank in Langalibalele Street opposite the Natalia building say they are fed up with being harassed by the Msunduzi Municipality’s security guards.
They said this on the morning of Tuesday at around 7.05 am after the Echo journalist witnessed a security guard confiscate boxes of fruit said to belong to one street vendor operating in the area.
The guard was questioned by the journalist about this and he stated that only street vendors who sell biscuits are allowed to operate on that spot between 7 am and 8 am.
This, he said, is an agreement that was made between the municipality and the street vendors.
One street vendor confirmed the agreement, adding that it was made some time last year between the two parties.
However, the vendors said the security guards sometimes pitch up during the agreed hour that they are authorised to operate in outside the rank, and disrupt their businesses.
They added that the guards sometimes pay them a visit three times a day.
According to some of the street vendors, the last time the security guards went to the spot in question was last Thursday morning, just before the taxi strike erupted and engulfed the CBD.
A seller, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said she once witnessed a security from the municipality slap a vendor during the guards’ rounds at the spot outside the rank.
Another vendor who requested anonymity said: “Last year, one guard threw an empty bucket at a woman who was selling here. She was struck on the forehead and began bleeding.”
“I believe the guard did that because she had sold all her goods out of the same bucket.”
The fruit seller, who asked for anonymity too, who had some boxes of fruit confiscated on Tuesday morning, said this happens regularly and the reason given is that he should stop selling his goods on the streets.
An estimated four boxes of fruit were seized from Wabuh and one witness claimed a batch of spoilt or rotten fruit was purposefully left behind.
He said he has never applied for a permit to operate as a street vendor because he is unaware of where to go and the process he must follow.
The fruit seller said the security paid a visit to the spot on Monday but he said he managed to run away before any of his goods were taken.
He said he used to sell fruit on Church Street but was instructed to no longer operate from there either.
“They [municipality] do not want us to sell anywhere in town,” he said.
Another street vendor who asked for her identity not to be revealed, lambasted the municipality and its guards for disrupting their businesses.
“This is how we make a living because we are unemployed. Sometimes when running away from the securities our goods are kicked over and spilt onto the street pavement, then vagrants pick these up and we lose out,” the street vendor said.
She said the security guards arrive bearing sjamboks, adding that she suspects the security guards confiscate the goods for personal use.
“How do they expect us to take our children to school with the hour we have to make money to raise our families?” she asked.
This street vendor said she has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain a permit.
In early November last year, the city’s mayor, Themba Njilo, led a contingent of the municipality’s staff doing a clean-up campaign which, in part, also inspected whether some street vendors were in possession of permits to operate within the CBD.
During the campaign, street vendors without permits were instructed to pack up their stalls and apply immediately for a permit.