Pretoria - Informal traders at Denneboom railway station in Mamelodi yesterday continued to trade amid mounds of rubble caused by the construction of Tshwane Regional Mall.
This was despite a Gauteng High Court ruling on Friday ordering them to vacate the construction site within 48 hours, as reported by the Pretoria News yesterday.
The court cited that the swirls of dust from the building site were harmful to their health.
For more than two years the building of the R1.3billion mall has caused tension between traders and developers Isibonelo Property Services.
Traders are at odds with developers over the availability of alternative space, saying it was unsuitable for business and didn't have sufficient containers to accommodate all of them.
Their leader, Mary Choma, said the traders vowed not to go anywhere, but to fight back should they be forced to relocate. “The traders are angry and they are saying it is better for them to fight back. We have been trying not to fight all along.
“The thing is we are not going anywhere, but if they come to us using force, I think we will retaliate.”
She repeated claims that the developers violated previous court orders prohibiting them from forcing the traders to move without first finding proper alternative space.
Choma suggested that developers should widen the makeshift passage used by commuters from the train station to Tsamaya Road first.
According to her, a bigger passage would accommodate traders to put up stalls where there was a constant movement of people. “They must be kind enough to channel people from the train. They need to widen the passage from the train station,” she said.
Traders felt like they were discriminated against by those in authority, she said.
“We think that this country is only for the rich. When you are rich you are able to violate the court order and get away with it.
“They said in court that we are going to be affected by dust. We have been exposed to dust for far too long. Why are they only saying now that we are going to be affected by dust while the mall is near completion?” she asked.
It is envisaged that the mall would be completed in August.
The court ruling was based on the fact that there were 29 traders who still occupied the construction site, but Choma said there were more than 170 of them.
Max Tlaka, a trader of more than 20 years, said the news that they ought to make way for a mall construction was heartbreaking. “I am not pleased with the judgment. Can you see how we are suffering? They want us to go and operate outside of here. Should they forcefully removed me from my stalls my business is going to go down.”
He said his business had not been doing well for two years since the building of the mall started.
“My customers are not coming to buy from me anymore. This is because the whole place is a mess. Some shops have been closed. It is one shop and a butchery that are still operating,” he said.
Hawker Antoinette Mangawane was despondent about the future of informal trading in the area.
“When they remove us (from) here where are we going to ply our trade? How are we going to make a living? We are not saying we don't want to move from here but they mustn't evict us like dogs.”
The breadwinner of five family members said she was able to send her children to school by selling vegetables.
“I have a sick child at home and this is the only way of providing for him. What will he eat if they remove me from here? I have been working here since 1990,” she said.