Informal vendors unhappy with City’s proposed trading plans

| Barbara Maregele
Hot dog stand owner, Erik Ebeling, couldn’t leave his stall to attend the City’s presentation. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

A 38-year-old fruit vendor in the city centre says it is not clear if he will be benefiting from the City of Cape Town’s proposed plan to allocate new trading bays.

This comes as lobby groups, including Western Cape Informal Traders and Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organizing (WIEGO) have criticised the council for what they claim is its failure to include traders in drafting the proposed plans.

The organisations are currently tabling a list of their concerns and have requested an additional public meeting with City officials.

It follows the public participation meeting in the City Hall yesterday, where members of the public were allowed to view and comment on the proposed sites for traders.

According to the City, draft plans to enhance safety and improve the business environment for traders have been initiated.

The proposed sites will be:

  • Ten trading bays situated at Peer Place.
  • Four trading bays in Waterkant between Long and Loop Streets and an additional three on the opposite site of the road.
  • Four bays in Waterkant between Loop and Bree Streets.
  • Three bays between Buitengracht and Waterkant Streets.
  • Three bays on the Old Marine Drive.

One of the posters of the City’s proposed trading bays for informal traders in the CBD.

A fruit stall owner, who asked not to be named because he fears being targeted by authorities, said that he went to view the plans but was still not sure what they meant.

“I walked in and they gave me two pieces of paper. The one was for my comments and the other one showed where the new stalls will be. No one explained to me if I can apply for those stalls or how it will affect my business,” he said.

The father of four has been selling fruit at a busy intersection in the CBD for the past 12 years.

“I wake up at 4am to buy my fruit at the Epping Market every morning before I set up in town at 6am and pack up at 6pm. The City can’t just expect us to pack up and go somewhere else. I would like if they came around to all the traders with a survey to ask what we wanted, but it’s as if they already made a decision and this (presentation) is just part of their protocol,” he said.

Another trader, Erik Ebeling, who owns a hot dog stand in St George’s Mall, said the times given for the presentation did not fall in line with other traders who worked alone.

“I wanted to go, but it was during my busy working hours. I’m the only one working at the stall so I can’t just leave it. I only pack up at 6pm so by the time I get there, it will be done. I still don’t know what it is about,” he said.

When GroundUp approached several other traders, some had heard about the presentation while most were unaware of the meeting being held less than 500 metres from their stalls.

Roger Ronnie, from the University of the Western Cape’s Social Law Project, said they identified a number of flaws in the City’s plans and their failure to engage with the public.

“There appeared to be no written plan. There was no indication of how many sites there are in the CBD, or what the problem with the current sites are. It’s not clear, but it appears that they have decreased the amount of stalls. We also want to know why some of the stalls are smaller than others,” he said.

Ronnie said it was essential for council to include vendors before the draft went to council as the vendor’s livelihoods were at stake.

The Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition spokesperson Rosheda Muller said they will be tabling their concerns.

“The problem comes when the City doesn’t engage with us, the people who are directly affected by the plans. We will not leave it here. We will take this up when we meet with City officials next week,” she said.

The City’s Mayco member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Johan van der Merwe, said members of the public were welcome to submit their comments on the plans.

“The current Informal Trading Plan for the Cape Town CBD was developed in the mid-1990s and promulgated over a period from 1996 to 1998. The introduction of IRT bus lanes and stations as well as the upgrade of pavements has resulted in changes to pedestrian patterns, businesses and their customers, as well as the physical space available for informal trading,” he said.

Van der Merwe said once the public participation process has been completed, a report will be submitted with recommendations to council and Mayco.

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