Cape Town's iconic Table Mountain looms over the city's Waterfront district. File picture: Reuters

New and “progressive” policies for informal trading will acknowledge that this sector is “not a nuisance or a phenomenon that should be cleaned up or eliminated”, says the City of Cape Town’s planning directorate.

In its report to the council the directorate notes that unlike the current policies, which were drafted more than four years ago, its proposed changes do not expect informal traders to eventually move from the street to a more formal business set-up.

“It (the report) instead supports the choices of those that choose to make a living in that manner.”

The draft revises informal trading policy and amendments to the by-law, which will include the identification of suitable trading sites before new property developments and the costing for infrastructure, such as roofs and lighting. It will go to the council next week for approval.

Meanwhile, an additional provision dealing with busking will be considered by the portfolio committee, following the altercation between city law enforcement officials and blind busker Lunga Goodman Nono earlier this month. Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said this meant the revised by-law would be amended again in three months, so that the provisions for busking could be included.

There would also be an opportunity for public comment.

Although the city held five public meetings with informal traders throughout the city, and collected comments via its electronic feedback system, many of the traders who commented complained that there was not enough engagement with the city council.

A Mr Fich of Khayelitsha said officials needed to understand how the sector worked. “If drastic action is not taken with regards to the informal sector more tuck shops will be burned down.”

The city has agreed to hold regular meetings with those involved in informal trading.

Rasheeda Petersen Green, of the Green Point Fleamarket Traders’ Association, said: “The city seems to be saying that they know what is best for traders, yet traders have not been consulted on development plans and it’s unlikely the by-law is going to have any effect on many of the informal trading practices currently prevalent.”

She said there was no recourse for traders who were aggrieved with the management of the market at which they traded.

Others complained that their allocated stalls or trading sites were in need of maintenance.

The new informal trading policy would deal with various aspects of infrastructure, including storage facilities and maintenance, said the city.

It would also allow for area-specific trading plans to determine the allocation of bays and permitted trading hours.

The city acknowledged that “very little” in the way of resources had been dedicated to the planning, management and infrastructure needs of its informal traders. The new policies would shift the focus from regulation to development of this growing economy.

But Tasso Evangelinos, of the Central City Improvement District, cautioned that the city would have to consolidate all those involved in these plans into a dedicated informal trading department with its own budget. This would enable the city to allocate resources more effectively. “A dedicated management system will be needed… to ensure that all the rules and regulations are enforced daily, the database is up to date and the permit system is working.”