Pretoria - Executive Mayor Solly Msimanga on Wednesday had tough words for business people in Marabastad, telling them to comply with municipal by-laws or risk having their businesses closed.
He led a surprise anti-crime raid in the area in line with the City’s Operation Tswelopele, aimed at cleaning up illicit activities.
The mayor was accompanied by a Metro Police team and MMC for Community Safety Alderman Anniruth Kissoonduth.
The illegal operation of businesses and trading in counterfeit goods, including many pairs of sneakers and male sexual enhancement pills, were among common problems in the area.
Shopkeepers were warned that they risked having their businesses closed if they continued to flout by-laws prohibiting them from selling stock on the pavements.
Msimanga had confrontations with those selling goods on the pavements, instead of doing so inside their shops.
He ordered them to remove their stock from the pavements, saying this contravened the terms and conditions of their business operating licences. Those reluctant to remove their stock had them confiscated by the metro police. The items included blankets, pots and dustbins.
“Where should people walk while your stock is on the pavements? If I come back here tomorrow and find these things here we will close you down and take everything,” he said.
One of the business people reasoned that he was not the only one guilty of the offence, saying the practice was common in the precinct.
Msimanga replied: “What you are telling me is not making sense. What you are saying is that if someone is throwing himself in the fire it means you are also going to throw yourself in the fire.”
Two foreigners were arrested because they didn’t have legal permits to be in the country. The pair were found inside one of the shops with gas stoves placed next to an open fire.
Msimanga said those who put gas stoves next to a fire posed a danger to other people’s lives.
Kissoonduth said the place, where the two men were arrested, sold food and takkies. “The place was like a time-bomb with gas stoves being operated next to an open fire. If any of the gas stoves exploded this whole city would have been in danger,” he said.
The area was beset by people operating businesses without licences. “This is an ongoing problem, but we will continue to enforce the law.”
A shopkeeper in Mogul Street was found selling medicine without a licence and Kissoonduth ordered his shop to be closed down.
“The by-laws get broken all over here. They need to be enforced. Lots of illegal activities are taking place here, which will now need to stop. We will continue with the operation to make sure we get everything in order.”
Informal trader Nosizwe Stemele complained that the municipality had promised to build shelters for informal traders, but that was never fulfilled. Msimanga assured her that work to build stalls would begin in January.