Lydia Mamogobo in business at the Woman’s Market, set up by the City on the lawns near Sisulu Street at Tshwane House. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - The Women’s Market introduced last week by executive mayor Solly Msimanga has been a huge flop, traders and customers said on Friday.

The general consensus on the second day of the market was that it had not attracted enough customers and stall-holders.

A few customers that were browsing the stalls said they had not been aware of the existence of the market and stumbled upon it by luck.

Another customer lamented the fact that there was a security guard at the gate, which she said was intimidating and created an impression that the market was not free for all.

Some traders, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of being excluded from future initiatives, said the market wasn’t attractive enough for them to leave their daily trading spots for, where they already had an established customer base.

They said it was quiet and lacked the buzz of a traders’ market, something both them and the customers attributed to lack of marketing and general support from the City of Tshwane.

Msimanga launched the initiative to celebrate Women’s Month and empower women informal traders in the city. He said it would take place every Friday during August on the lawns near Sisulu Street at Tshwane House.

However, informal traders at the market who spoke to the Pretoria News were far from happy with the initiative.

Firstly, the informal traders said the initiative should not only be done during Women’s Month, but every Friday all year long.

Few traders set up their stalls in anticipation of business. They exhibited their arts and crafts, including hand-made jewellery and traditional clothes. A few people trickled through the gates to either buy or browse the stalls.

Another major problem for the traders was the lack of support from the City of Tshwane. The traders accused the metro of going about its business without recognition of their role in the economy.

However, not everyone was unhappy. Informal trader Lydia Mamogobo said she had been in business since 2000. “This is the first time the City has done something like this for us. However, while we really appreciate this initiative, we believe it should not only be on Women’s Month, but rather an activity every Friday,” she said.

On other days, Mamogobo sells traditional jewellery and clothes and an assortment of hand-made artefacts, on the corner of Helen Joseph and Lilian Ngoyi streets.

She said said lack of job opportunities led to her into the arts and crafts business. “I saw that sitting at home and not doing anything would not put food on the table, so I decided to go to school and learn how to use my hands.”

Lerato Sabangu also heeded the mayor’s call to trade from the market this month. But she too wants the market to be held every Friday and not just during August.

She sells jewellery at the Union Buildings daily and said trading from Tshwane House once a week had earned her new customers.

When he announced the initiative on the eve of Women’s Day, Msimanga called on the public to support women and act against gender-based violence for 365 days in a year.

He said the fight shouldn’t be confined to Women’s Month. The theme of the market is “Empower a woman, empower a nation because women are the stronghold of the nation”.

Msimanga said he wanted to emphasise the role women played in the economy and society.

Social Development MMC Ntsiki Mkhonto told the Pretoria News the low turnout of traders could be because they were expecting the City to transport them to the market.

“With regards to the customers, Sisulu Street is not as busy as it used to be, something we only realised last week. We couldn’t move the market to another location as the only available spot was Sammy Marks.

“This was not ideal, because it is where some of them run their daily businesses. Moving the market there would thus have been meaningless.”

However, Mkhonto said they would look for a better location in the future. “It is our first time doing this, but we learn from such things and will definitely look into ways to make things better,” she said.

Mkhonto said the mayor had already told the traders that the initiative might grow into something bigger and not just held during August. She added the City was still looking into ways to achieve that.

Pretoria News