Hawker mayhem spreads
Pretoria - The mayhem spread to Hammanskraal yesterday when members of the Tshwane Metro Police allegedly demolished structures belonging to hawkers.
This sent the hawkers on the rampage and they blocked the R101 (Old Warmbaths Road) and looted shops at Kopanong Shopping Complex, before moving to the Jubilee Mall where they also ran amok, forcing shops to close.
A delivery truck carrying food was looted, resulting in police using a helicopter to round up the culprits who were hiding in nearby bushes.
Police spokeswoman, Lieutenant Sarah Lesabane said there were reports that soft drinks and beverages were stolen out of a minibus. “The incident was the result of a protest which involved hundreds of informal traders who were accusing the metro police of harassment,” she said.
The protest began yesterday morning when informal traders learnt that metro police had demolished their colleagues’ stalls next to the Kopanong and Renbro shopping centres. They barricaded the R101 road with burning tyres, rocks and sticks. A section of the road had to be closed.
At least 20 people were arrested for looting. The angry hawkers said the Tshwane Metro Police came on Thursday night without informing them and destroyed their livelihoods. Chairman of the hawkers, Thabo Tshesane, said metro police took the goods of his members without giving them any reasons.
During the stand-off with the members of the SAPS the hawkers demanded that mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa address their plight, but the council assigned MMC responsible for roads and transport, George Matjila, to quell the tensions.
Matjila rubbished claims that the council instructed the metro police to demolish the hawkers’ structures. He strongly condemned the conduct of the metro police and said the council would inform the metro police officials to return their stocks and erect their stalls.
“The council distances itself from the unbecoming conduct of the metro police. We [would] like to put it on record that there was never an instruction to support confiscation of hawkers goods,” he said to loud applause from the hawkers.
He also explained to the hawkers that there were those within their ranks who wanted to push a criminal agenda. He warned that the council would not tolerate such conduct. “But at the same time, as the council, we will not support those who take advantage of the situation to drive their own criminal agendas from hawkers’ genuine pleas for intervention,” he warned.
Johannes Selemane, one of the hawkers who spoke to the Pretoria News, said he was shattered as on Wednesday he had purchased new stock to the value of R2 500, comprising vegetables, fruit, airtime and sweets. He said the metro police must compensate him and erect his shelter which they have destroyed.
Tshwane Metro Police spokeswoman Louise Brits said the decision to demolish the structures came as a result of criminal elements terrorising the community.
She said a woman was robbed of R2 000 on Tuesday and the community asked that something be done.
“During an inter-departmental meeting, it was discussed that criminals used the structures along the road to hide and attack people. It was then decided that the structures should be demolished as, by law, people are not supposed to trade along a major road,” said Brits.
She added that the hawkers were informed in time that the structures would be removed and those with legal permits would be allowed to trade in the vicinity of the taxi rank and next to the shopping complexes in the area.
Traders also protested in Pretoria on Tuesday after the demolition of their stalls and the seizure of their stock in Marabastad and other parts of the CBD on Monday night.
The hawkers have since turned the CBD into a ghost town, forcing many shops to close down as they continue with their actions.
Mohamed Iqbal, who owns an electronics shop in town, yesterday told the Pretoria News the hawkers broke into his shop and stole everything that was inside. “They took cellphones, laptops, cellphone accessories and other electronic goods. They also broke furniture,” he said.
Tshwane Informal Traders’ Association spokesman, Shoes Malok, said the Hammanskraal protest was running parallel to another in downtown Pretoria. “We want to request the municipality to allow us to continue trading while discussions to resolve the matter continue,” he said.
The DA in Tshwane has lambasted the ongoing protest as it is affecting businesses in the Pretoria CBD. DA spokeswoman on community safety in Tshwane, Karen Meyer said the CBD was becoming a ghost town and this was a serious concern to them.
“It is clear that the city’s economy is going to suffer, especially if the climate of fear which the dealers are experiencing, continues. While they cannot trade for fear of reprisals, they nevertheless have to pay rent for their premises and also rates and taxes. It is thus essential that the metro police protect these shop owners as it is clear that the city imposed its own policy in a rash or ill-considered manner,” she said.
Meyer added that it was evident that the council failed to do proper planning so that this situation could be effected with as little disruption and violence as possible.
Pretoria News Weekend