Street traders, city still at loggerheads

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IOL  informal trader THE STAR One of Joburgs thousands of informal inner-city street traders. Photo: Mujahid Safodien

Johannesburg - The ongoing clash of heads between Joburg’s informal traders and officials shows no signs of abating.

Despite weeks of consultation by the city with various groups such as businesses, residents, churches and transporters on a new policy for street trading, the council has admitted “it has not been all smooth sailing”.

Ruby Mathang, member of the mayoral committee for economic development, said although the council was pleased with the participation during the past two weeks, “all stakeholders had real concerns about the current situation”.

At every meeting, the issue of congestion, health, safety, grime and by-law enforcement, was raised.

Enforcement in the council was continuing, to ensure the inner city did not become chaotic.

“This remains vital in managing the inner city and serving as a deterrent against illegal trading and crime,” said Mathang.

“Although the traders were initially mistrustful of the city’s intentions, they generally welcomed the opportunity to be part of the review of informal trading. They were most vociferous about police corruption, illegal traders, trade permits and facilities.”

It was agreed that traders would be afforded a second consultation meeting.

Mathang said while property and business owners consulted had embraced informal trading, they had a serious problem with the way traders did business, saying it dissuaded potential investors.

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

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

Transport operators, Mathang said, were elated about the construction of the Kaserne transit station and the decking of the railways project.

“They expressed their concern about trading on pavements, which made it difficult and unsafe for commuters forced to use the street to get by, as well as reclaimers pushing trolleys in the streets.”

Foreign traders were concerned about their future once the new policy was in place and continued xenophobia, which was also raised by the NGOs that generally wanted to see better management and more trade markets.

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

The city, said Mathang, had undertaken extensive processes to verify the traders identified by the Constitutional Court in December and the traders’ organisations had assisted in this.

However, traders are not happy. The SA National Traders and Retailers Alliance said it was considering further legal action because of the current law enforcement.

“Joburg is acting in bad faith by continuing to turn its corruption-riddled metro police on street traders while claiming that ‘hawkers are here to stay’,” it said.

Among their complaints were that the city had no database of existing traders; was not engaging on where to trade and how many legal spaces there were; and the council was offering 800 legal trading sites, when there were 10 000 traders, said spokesman Edmund Elias.

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