Disgruntled Gatesville traders have voiced their grievances at the City of Cape Town’s plans to implement operational changes that accommodate COVID-19 safety regulations in the lively trading hub. This comes after City officials along with the area’s ward councillor Aslam Cassiem undertook an inspection and found several coronavirus safety violations last week.
Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Management, Alderman Grant Twigg, said the visit was prompted by concerns that were raised regarding the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as a result of the close proximity of the informal traders to each other, and the conduct and procedures of formal businesses and consumers.
“For some time, there have been discussions about reviewing the informal trading plan for the area, but due to the lack of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, urgent action is needed to address these concerns as a matter of urgency,” he told VOC. H
However, secretary of the Gatesville Informal Traders Association, Shareefa Cloete said above all, traders have always been handed the short end of the stick by city officials.
“I’ve been here for the past 18 years and I can confidently say that the council has done absolutely nothing to benefit us. I am a widow, this is my livelihood. We have been paying R200 every month for our allocated bays. I wish someone would tell me where all that monies have gone because I haven’t seen a single cent used to benefit us,” cried Cloete.
Informal trader, Shaheeda Isaacs said traders have never been included in decisions that officials make on their behalf.
“It feels as if we are not recognized as an association. The City never asks us for our contribution in a matter they take each and every decision even if we bare the brunt of the situation. We are nothing to the City and I can assure you this City does not work for us,” said a frustrated Isaacs.
However, the City is not the only issue traders have.
For 60-year-old trader, Nabewayah Hartley, the entire situation screams injustice.
“We pay our rent on time and we stay in our allocated bays. We ensure that we social distance, wear our masks and hand sanitize on the regular. We follow all the safety protocols that are expected of us but the illegal traders that are not implementing any of the safety regulations or paying any rent are completely dismissed by law enforcement but we are the ones that are victimized by these thugs,” screamed Hartley.
An anonymous trader who has been trading in Gatesville for over a decade said shop owners and traders have to work together in order to achieve the ideal trading situation.
“The biggest challenge for us are the illegal traders. Rules are rules and we [legal traders] have our permits so we can ensure that there is order in Gatesville. Moving us into the parking lot as the City has suggested would be a great injustice not only to us but to the shop owners because if we aren’t here, Gatesville is a graveyard,” stated the trader.
For trader, Aziz Rawoot if the City were to implement their new structural changes, parking would be the biggest concern.
“If you count the shop owners alone they take up the entire space of the already cramped parking space. Where are the traders going to park but more importantly where are the customers going to park?” asked Rawoot.
“You can’t expect us to park roads away. Opportunistic criminals will break into our cars and steal our stock and I highly doubt the City is going to reimburse our lost profits. This is a disaster waiting to ensue,” continued Rawoot.
A committee member of the Gatesville Informal traders Association, Zaida Firfrey, said her plea is for the City to allow the traders to continue as they have been.
“Most shop owners are happy with where we are trading, it’s one or two that still has issues but all in all we see eye to eye and we need to stand together to ensure that arrangement continues as it is. So that we can be happy traders and in turn create a happy atmosphere for our customers,” smiled Firfrey.