City pushes on with plans for eviction of Salt River Market traders

On site: Salt River Market has been earmarked for housing. Picture: Zolani Sinxo

On site: Salt River Market has been earmarked for housing. Picture: Zolani Sinxo

Published May 9, 2024


[Edit: This story has been updated. The City has identified that one of the traders mentioned in the article is not a respondent in the City’s eviction application at Salt River Market.]

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is continuing with its plans to evict historic Salt River Market traders who, for decades, have used the venue to not only sell their goods but also to share cultural experiences with customers and residents.

The City recently filed an urgent court application to evict the last remaining tenants who refuse to leave the market.

The once popular market, which was filled with colour, now tells the tale of its decline, with only about four stalls left.

The dispute comes after the City told the traders that the site was earmarked for social housing.

Igshaan Higgins, an activist lawyer who has been vocal on the matter, said the eviction process could have been avoided if the City followed through on its commitment to explore relocating the traders to a suitable trading location.

“Unfortunately, the City opted for an urgent High Court application against financially disadvantaged traders who are unable to adequately defend themselves.

“These traders now face the burden of covering the City's legal costs, regardless of their decision to contest the matter.

“Many of these individuals have operated businesses at the Salt River Market for over half a century, with their staff now facing unemployment,” said Higgins.

“It is my hope that the City will keep its expensive and overzealous lawyers at bay while trying to find an amicable solution through negotiation and/or mediation.”

Human settlements Mayco member Carl Pophaim said the City was releasing inner city land for affordable housing on an accelerated basis, and Salt River Market was one of various municipal-owned properties in central Cape Town — with a yield of over 3 500 units — that had already been released to social housing developers, including Pine Road, Dillon Lane, and Pickwick in Woodstock, and the Maitland Mews development.

“In line with our agenda to build a City of Hope by enabling much more social housing in well-located areas, the Salt River Market development will include 300 social housing units,” Popham said.

“It will also include a public square, alongside a community hall, anchor retail shops, and convenience retail (such as a hairdresser, laundry, etc) that will create many opportunities for small businesses. The development proposal pays special attention to the historical context of this site,” said Pophaim.

He said development was planned to accommodate the remaining four historical fresh produce sellers.

“The City has held extensive engagements with all the traders on the site, resulting in most of the remaining commercial traders agreeing to relocate on a voluntary basis,” said Popham.

“The land was released by the City council to the successful developer in July 2022, with construction set to start soon in July 2024.

“This is, however, being delayed by only four remaining traders who have, since 2019, been earning an income by trading illegally on the site without a lease agreement at Salt River Market and who do not trade in fresh produce or associated goods.

“Despite ample notice of the City’s intention to release the site for social housing development, these four traders have continued to make commercial gains without even paying for the water and electricity they consume on site.”

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Cape Argus