Green Market Square traders face imminent eviction

| Tariro Washinyira
Informal traders have been running businesses in this market since 2010. Photo by Tariro Washinyira.

At least 40 immigrants trading since 2010 at the Soko African Market, next to Green Market Square, face imminent eviction. Their attempts to negotiate for more notice time before eviction from the Kings Hotel, which owns the property, have failed.

The traders say that they have been renting without a lease agreement since April this year when Kings Hotel bought the property from the previous owner whom they had a written agreement with. They claim that the hotel’s manager promised to give them more than three months eviction notice if the owner ever decided to develop his property. They also say they were promised a lease contract to those who paid rental fees on time. The traders claim the hotel has not met this promise and recently served them with a two-week eviction notice, which, after negotiations, was extended to a month.

One of the informal traders, Blessing Chibanda from Zimbabwe, said, “In his first notice, the manager told us that the decision to evict us came from City Council which demanded that the hotel should put in a fire escape. He later admitted this was not the case when we asked him to show us the evidence from the council. He admitted that the hotel intended to renovate the place into a kitchen, laundry and car park. When he became aware that we recorded him in the previous meeting promising to give us two to three months’ notice he extended the two weeks notice to one month which is still inadequate. We need time to prepare. We are coming from winter business which has been very slow. We are in debt and were looking forward to making profits in the summer. As it is we do not even have money to seek new business premises.”

A Ghanaian trader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “We are not refusing to go. We are just asking for more time for the sake of our customers. Right now we cannot even inform them where we are moving to and it deeply affects the business. I wonder why the owner of this property is treating us this way because he is also an immigrant from Ethiopia. When his manager came to finalise the one month’s eviction notice, he had a form which he demanded us to sign. He shouted that if we do not want to sign we should move out. He did not give us a chance even to read the form.”

Another trader explained that the incident is making them more vulnerable to property owners in Cape Town. Once landlords pick up that there is a desperate large group like them, they will hike the rental fees, he explained. Currently he pays R1,000 per month because his section is small. Stalls at the back cost R1,500 per month and those at the entrance, the most expensive section, pay up to R3 500 per month.

In a telephone interview, the Kings Hotel manager, Rodney Harmer, said, “We had a meeting today [last Thursday] and have reached an agreement. If they changed their mind and are not happy, they can engage their lawyers.” The agreement he is referring to appears to be the extension of the two week notice period to one month.

TOPICS:  Human Rights Immigration

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