Pretoria - Informal traders along the busy Solomon Mahlangu Drive have nowhere to go due to the multimillion upgrade of the road.
Traders who mostly sell food, fruit, building materials and car tyres on the side of the road are concerned that the R285 million upgrade will put them out of business. According to them, they were ordered to move to make way for the project without being given an alternative place to ply their trade.
The road stretches almost 12km in a north-easterly direction from Lynnwood to Mamelodi, linking Lynnwood Road to K54 in Mamelodi. The first phase of the project will cover about 9km from the R104 (Bronkhorstspruit Road) to K54 in Mamelodi.
Lucas Phasa has been stationed on the side of the road for 11 years, selling his famous “cow head and pap”. He said he was baffled by the forced removal without any alternative.
“I have built my house, taken my kids to school and made a living from this business. And now just like that they want to take it away from me, from us,” he told the Pretoria News.
He said the decision to have them removed would have a terrible ripple effect on the surrounding communities of Nellmapius, Mahube and Mamelodi East.
“No man can stand any empty stomach; so as a result people will resort to crime to feed their families. The government should assist us in building stalls along the road or take us to another place,” said Pasha.
The upgrade also led to the closure of a makeshift taxi rank, and according to traders, business was booming there. There are more than 70 businesses along Solomon Mahlangu Drive between the bridge next to Extension 6 and the University of Pretoria Mamelodi campus.
The traders have threatened to disrupt the construction until they have been given an alternative site to do business..
In August during a sod-turning event, MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo appealed to residents to refrain from burning and barricading roads when voicing their grievances to the government. “We plead with communities to refrain from destroying the roads and appreciate the effect this has on service delivery and people’s lives. We also discourage burning of clinics and schools or hampering of services,” said Mamabolo.
The road has been experiencing high volumes of traffic resulting in congestion during peak morning and afternoon periods. It is extensively used by taxis and buses transporting commuters.
When completed, the road will serve as an important link between Mamelodi and the N4, while also being used to stimulate socio-economic growth in Mamelodi through the provision of a modern integrated public transport system. It will also create 350 local direct jobs, said Mamabolo.
Tollo Nkosi of the contractor, Umso Construction, said the road would include south and northbound dual carriageways, four bridges over the railway line, pedestrian facilities as well as a taxi bay.
The scope of the construction work includes reconstruction of the existing gravel shoulder, asphalt surfacing and drainage improvements.
Other work would include the construction of edge beams; reinstatement of road markings and damaged signs, repairing guardrails as well as cleaning, creating and constructing road reserve and drainage structures.
The project is expected to be completed by August 2021.