THERE is an urgent need for discussions between the Tshwane Metro Council, commuters, taxi operators and informal traders.

The metro council recently announced its plans to “reclaim” Pretoria’s inner city – a move which has upset some taxi operators, commuters and informal traders.

“Operation Reclaim the Inner City of Tshwane”, as the project is known, is – according to a report tabled before the council last month – aimed at “fighting poverty, building clean, healthy, safe and sustainable communities by intensifying by-law enforcement and urban management within the project area”.

The project’s boundaries are Thabo Sehume Street (Andries), in the west, Pretorius Street in the south, Du Toit Street in the east and Madiba Street (Vermeulen) in the north.

Both taxi operators and informal traders have complained that the municipality was depriving them of an income.

Commuters have also complained that they would be forced to disembark far from their work places as taxis would not be allowed to operate in the inner city.

But executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa has stated that the move is aimed at providing a safe environment for pedestrians in the inner city.

Ramokgopa further stated that the move was not aimed at depriving taxi operators and informal traders of an opportunity to make a living and that discussions would be held with all concerned parties.

One of the biggest problems is that there appears to be no clear indication about what the municipality intends doing and how it hopes to implement the various projects.

This has led to uncertainty among commuters, taxi operators and informal traders.

Some commuters are under the impression that they would be forced to disembark from taxis in Marabastad and walk to their workplaces in the inner city.

Taxi drivers are also under the impression that the municipality would close all “illegal” taxi ranks in the inner city and they would be forced to wait for commuters on the periphery.

The municipality should engage all affected parties through its public participation process.

This will give commuters, taxi operators and informal traders an opportunity to voice their concerns and to suggest alternatives.

Using the metro police to forcibly remove informal traders and taxi operators from some of the streets in the inner city will not help matters.

In fact it will strain relations, with those being kicked out of the inner city feeling that they are being denied an opportunity to put food on the table for their families.

There are a number of issues the municipality needs to take into consideration before it implements its plans to “reclaim” the inner city.

These include the provision of proper holding bays for taxi operators – with ablution facilities and enough parking space.

Dedicated loading and off-loading points should be identified to avoid traffic congestion, especially along Madiba, Thabo Sehume and Lilian Ngoyi (Van der Walt) streets.

Proper stalls should also be provided for informal traders, who play an important part in the city’s economy.

These informal traders buy their goods from the Tshwane Fresh Produce market then resell to the public, thereby providing a service to people.

Let’s hope that common sense will prevail and the municipality will canvass all opinions before it embarks on this programme.