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Somerset West festival discussions deadlocked

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Negotiations between the South African Police Services (SAPS) and organisers of the popular Festival under the Lights in Somerset West remain at a deadlock, facilitator Taj Akleker has confirmed. Informal traders have spoken out over a proposed change in dates for the annual festival from the 15th-23rd to the 2nd-14th December, due to concerns that the period will draw little attendance from the local community, which in turn will directly affect business for the traders.

Organisers met with SAPS on Wednesday to negotiate the proposal and whether appropriate safety and policing needs can be provided during the original dates. However the discussions proved fruitless, as the area’s station commander confirmed a lack of resources to cater for the festival.

As a compromise SAPS suggested extending the festival by two days to the 16th December.

“The trader community is still very concerned around those dates because they don’t fall slap-bang in the middle of the festive season, and they are very worried about conducting their trading as a successful means of income,” Akleker explained.

As a result, organisers met with MEC for Tourism, Events and Economic development, Gareth Bloor and thereafter the leadership of the trader community, who suggested a new proposal that could see trading dates cut.

“The City is trying very hard to make this work, and we are equally trying as best we can. Our proposal to SAPS and the City would be that we are going to cut down on the trading days and then whatever the shortfall is we will beef up our security to meet it. We will get sufficient recourses to satisfy SAPS that everything is in order,” he stated.

Akleker that if this “last ditch attempt” to salvage the original dates failed, organisers would again meet with the trader community to seek a fresh mandate on how to move forward.

Organisers will be meeting with SAPS on Friday morning to address the issue. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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