Pretoria - Angry hawkers have for a second consecutive day caused havoc in Pretoria’s inner city, forcing businesses to close.
From Bazaar to Boom streets, Marabastad shops were closed, as was the Belle Ombre Plaza.
While the crowd was making its way to Munitoria, an exhausted man wearing a tattered brown jersey and close to tears fell to his knees shouting “Kill me, metro police, kill me”.
Surrounded by heavily armed police officers, Solomon Pholoma slowly rose, put his hands up in the air and again shouted the words.
Pholoma was one of about 1 000 angry hawkers protesting on the streets of the inner city on Wednesday following another clean-up operation by metro police earlier this week.
The operation was part of the CBD renewal project and hawkers, as well as their goods, were removed from Marabastad and Lilian Ngoyi (Van der Walt) Street.
The protest not only caused the shutdown of business operations in Marabastad, but led to the closure of many businesses around the city, including those in Madiba (Vermeulen) Street.
“F*** you, metro police. Why are you shooting at us?” shouted Juliet Ngobeni, who had narrowly escaped being sprayed by a water cannon that was being used to bring the crowd under control at the corner of Boom and Bosman streets.
Ngobeni was recently removed from her trading post in the city centre. “I want [President Jacob] Zuma to tell me why we have to suffer like this. This is bulls***, this government can go to hell,” she shouted.
Shortly after midday, three nyalas closed the roads at the intersection of Boom and Sophie de Bruyn (Schubart) streets, and police fired rubber bullets to keep the growing crowd under control.
Norman Ntombeni, who traded in Lilian Ngoyi Street, said he had been moved several times and had nothing left. “I have three children and another one on the way. All I am trying to do is provide food for my family.”
Ntombeni said the Tshwane Metro Police (TMPD) had said he should get a trading licence, and when he applied for the licence, he was told to wait for three weeks.
“How can I wait for three weeks? Who will feed my family in those three weeks?” he said.
“This government has f***ed up. We are going to stop this government of the ANC. They don’t care about the people of the country.
“Ramokgopa’s mother was a hawker and a trader in this very same city.
“That is how she fed him [Ramokgopa] and now that he is mayor, the ways of his mother are not good enough any more.”
TMPD spokesman Console Tleane confirmed that the hawkers were angry about the CBD renewal project.
“The city is attempting to regenerate the inner city, and it has two goals in mind. First, it wants to pedestrianise Paul Kruger Street, from the station to Madiba Street, as well as Helen Joseph (Church) Street, from Church Square to the Union Buildings.
“This is the reason why taxis and hawkers must be removed.”
Tleane said many hawkers were trading without licences, and that those who did have licences didn’t comply with the terms and regulations of these.
He said the march was illegal because the hawkers had applied for permission to march, but failed to attend a security meeting required by law.
Late on Wednesday afternoon, TMPD spokeswoman Louise Brits said the situation was under control and several arrests had been made.
“The culprits will be charged with public violence,” she said.
Hawkers are permitted to trade only under the following circumstances:
* They must be in possession of a trading licence, which costs R150;
* They may trade only in designated areas in the CBD;
* They may trade only during office hours (8am-5pm); and
* All trading equipment must be removed after 5pm and stored in facilities provided by the City of Tshwane.