Concern over informal trading in Joburg

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IOL informal traders INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS File picture:Timothy Bernard

Johannesburg - Everyone involved in talks about informal trading in the Johannesburg city centre has concerns about the current situation, the city said on Wednesday.

While the city was pleased with participation in negotiations in the past two weeks, it was not all smooth sailing, economic development mayoral committee member Rudy Mathang said in a statement.

“What was welcoming is that every meeting, including that of the informal traders, raised the issue of congestion, health, safety, grime, and surprisingly, by-law enforcement.”

The city concluded its first phase of consultations and would now start more focused discussions with informal traders or their representatives in terms of the Businesses Act.

By-law enforcement was continuing, as it ensured the city centre did not become chaotic, and served as a deterrent to illegal trading and crime.

While traders were initially mistrustful of the city's intentions, they generally welcomed the opportunity to be part of the informal trading review.

“They were most vociferous about police corruption, illegal traders, trade permits and facilities,” Mathang said.

“It was agreed that traders would be afforded a second consultation meeting and issues requiring immediate attention would be dealt with by the development and support directorate.”

The meeting with property and business owners showed both parties recognised informal trading as a part of the economy, but had misgivings about the way traders conducted business. This was because it dissuaded potential investors.

“Residents insisted on better by-law enforcement and the demarcation of no trade areas in front of flats due to littering, unsanitary conditions, and criminal elements,” Mathang said.

“Both parties agreed that sustainable measures had to be put in place to rescue the inner city from further deterioration and encourage investment.”

Transport operators were concerned by the occupation of pavements.

“They nevertheless supported informal trade because they were able to buy food and fruit from traders,” Mathang said.

Foreign traders were concerned about where they would fit in and about xenophobia, a matter also raised by NGOs.

NGOs wanted to see better management and the development of more trade markets.

“What is worrying for the city is the large number of allegations regarding the sale of trading spaces to foreign traders,” Mathang said.

The consultations had made the city acutely aware of the complex situation faced by all affected parties.

The city had started the consultations with “no blueprint” or agenda, in a transparent manner, with the goal of creating an inclusive economy in a welcoming metro, he said.

Sapa


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