Perturbed informal traders in the Mitchells Plain Town Centre have fervently expressed their plight on crime to the City of Cape Town and its officials. However, for many of the brokers, these continuous grievances have fallen on deaf ears. The complaints put forth by the traders surround the ever-growing crime, influx of illegal traders and the infestation of drugs. Furthermore, with the introduction of the novel coronavirus the need to ensure social distancing and COVID-19 health protocols has added to their list of fears.
The vice-chairperson of the United Hawkers Forum, Kulsum Baker, who has been trading informally for the better part of her life said her livelihood is being dwindled by illegalities that can be prevented by officials.
“In the event that the City does deploy their law enforcement officers then they can be expected to stay for a between half hour and an hour and once they pack up and leave then it’s back to the violations from the illegal traders,” stated 70-year-old Baker.
“The market that the former legal traders got moved into by the City is an absolute ghost town, you can count on your fingers how many people are in this square, we can also take the violent route that many others have taken but we prefer to liaise in a decent fashion it’s just a shame that we don’t get that same respect from officials,” said Baker.
Baker claimed there is no management in place to ensure all protocols are adhered to and all promises are panned out.
However, Alderman for Urban Management, Grant Twigg agreed that illegal trading has been taking place for the better part of five years.
“The illegal traders have moved in but it should be noted that the City is acting. We have our staff members that are constantly in the center that are pointing out the illegal traders and in that way we are able to ensure the traders demands are met,” said Twigg.
Twigg said the City is currently ensuring all illegal traders around the city are being adequately dealt with.
“Illegal traders are not only causing a problem for the City but for the customers of the various markets and the traders that are in possession of permits,” stated Twigg.
Social distancing in the town centre trading hub is also seen as a concern but Twigg advised that grown adults cannot be expected to be reminded of safety protocols that they should already be familiar with.
“I want to request from the City of the Cape Town that they gave me the opportunity to retire from this town centre but when that happens I want to retire and be proud of what we have established and maintained. Many have come before me and many have already passed on. I feel as if it is my civic duty to ensure their legacy lives on,” sobbed Baker.
Baker questioned the motive behind the policing officials.
“It seems as if a blind eye is being turned on the drug lords that have infiltrated the town centre. The police would rather arrest our children buying the drugs rather than those who are selling it to them in first place. The question begs are these officers on the payroll of the merchants,” asked Baker.
Secretary of Hawkers Against Crime, Mishka Cassiem encouraged the City to consult informal traders before making decisions on their behalf that adversely affects them.
“City needs to acknowledge the traders that have dug the trench for the informal sector and consult our leadership we are tired of reading about our livelihoods in newspapers. We have elderly traders that are baring the brunt of the illegal traders, these pirates accumulate a hefty revenue each day. It is truly a heart-breaking sight,” sighed an exacerbated Cassiem.
Furthermore, Twigg added that the City has yet to roll out its COVID-19 safety kits to the respective traders.