Durban’s informal street traders have urged city officials tasked with enforcing the informal trading by-laws to crack down on people trading without permits.
The traders also hoped the new policy being developed by the eThekwini Municipality would protect them from the metro police who, they said, harassed them and confiscated their goods.
The municipality has invited informal trading and retail market traders to give their comments and make recommendations on proposed trading regulations. The meetings began this month and will be held until the end of next month. The city said the proposed by-laws were not intended to displace informal traders but dealt with non-compliance and law enforcement.
Zanele Shandu, the chairwoman of the informal traders committee, said she attended the first meeting on October 9 but left “confused”.
“I didn’t understand a word the officials said. But I know that the municipality is only interested in money; they don’t care about us. I think these by-laws are only intended to give officials power to oppress us.”
At least 12 traders interviewed by The Mercury in Warwick Triangle did not attend the consultation meeting because they had other commitments and some said they “don’t see the point”.
The informal traders said yesterday that the municipality had neglected them and failed to provide them with basic services like water, ablution facilities and proper stalls.
Phakamani Ndonyela, who has been a street trader for 10 years, said he paid about R500 every six months for his trading permit, but the municipality never maintained the pavement where he worked.
“People urinate and defecate next to our makeshift stalls and nobody from the council comes to clean up. There are no taps for us to get water or proper tables to lay our goods,” he said.
Ndonyela said what was most upsetting was that they spent their last cent paying for permits while other street traders could not be bothered.
“We pay for our permits, but the metro police still harass us and confiscate our goods. Would it be better if we robbed people instead of selling on the streets? The way the city operates is a joke,” he said.
Municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said the proposed by-laws introduced new offences for people who traded without a valid permit.
He said now any person convicted of an offence under the by-laws could be fined up to R1 000 or jailed. “The current by-law did not deal with this precisely,” he said.
Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi dismissed the traders’ allegations, saying that valid permit holders had the right to trade at their designated areas. He said the metro police “hawker unit” dealt with enforcement of municipal by-laws.
“Any complaints regarding conduct of our members can be forwarded to our PRO section at 16 Archie Gumede Place, or reported to the city’s ombudsman,” he said. - The Mercury