South Africa: Informal Traders Protest in Mitchells Plain

5 November 2019

About 40 informal traders protested outside Lentegeur Civic Centre on Tuesday demanding that the City of Cape Town deal with the problem of illegal traders and provide a safe and secure trading environment.

In a statement on 2 November, the organisers of the protest - the Cape Peninsula Informal Traders Forum, Western Cape Informal Traders, Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition and South African Informal Traders Alliance - said, "We need an area where traders and customers may feel safe, comfortable, and secure. We need regular and more frequent policing and patrols through our trading precinct. We request the City install CCTV cameras at strategic points that will assist in decreasing criminal activity, and the identification of offenders."

The organisation also called for meaningful participation with the City in formulating and implementing relevant by-laws, and for regular communication with the City.

"We demand to be taken seriously! We are businesspersons not criminals. We demand respect and recognition as legitimate businesspersons."

They sang, "No more empty promises, nothing about us without us."

Kulsum Baker, 72, who has been trading at Lentegeur for 35 years, accused the City of making empty promises. She said two months ago the City told them that on 1 November private security, law enforcement officers and the police would be sent to "clean up" the town centre.

She said some traders battled to pay the rent of R105 a month and faced eviction. Instead of dealing with illegal traders, she said, City law enforcement harassed legal traders.

In an email to GroundUp on Tuesday, Grant Twigg, Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Management, said only permit holders are allowed to trade in the Mitchell's Plain Town Centre.

"We are aware of the illegal traders in and around Town Centre due to the poor current economic conditions." The City had deployed seven "compliance officers", and increased private security with 15 officers, and would add five more officers over the holiday season.

"We have been communicating with traders on a regular basis through the Area Coordination Task Team."

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