Plans are afoot to implement structural changes that accommodate COVID-19 safety regulations in the bustling Gatesville trading hub. It comes after City of Cape Town officials joined the area’s ward councillor Aslam Cassiem on an in-loco inspection and found numerous violations.
While the area was deserted a few weeks ago, it has once again become a hive of activity as shoppers return to much-loved stores, traders attract customers through catchy calls and car drivers become frustrated with having to squeeze through narrow, congested roads.
The area is well known for its combination of unique retailers and informal traders; making it the go-to stop for just about anything. The market offers a buffet of products, from clothing to cutlery and toys to hardware.
After South Africa dropped to Alert Level 3 lockdown in June, the streets became busier and social distancing became less. This was among the observations by Mayco member for Community Health Dr Zahid Badroodien and Mayco member for Urban Management Grant Twigg at the weekend, who had spoken to businesses operating in the area.
Speaking to VOC on Wednesday, Twigg said that the visit was prompted by the lack of conventional public participation which has been limited by Covid-19 regulations.
“I’m actually glad we went out. We never told the businesses or traders we’re coming we just came with two officials, just walking through. We could see the concerns.”
The main issue raised by both traders and businesses was social distancing, given that informal traders share a pavement with shops and there is little room to move between them. Twigg said that the traders feel they cannot move because their customers are attuned to stepping out of a shop and into the informal setting to purchase more goods.
Twigg said another aim of the impromptu visit was to hear suggestions, some of which will be formalized and added to an urgent proposal that will be handed to stakeholders.
“Some people may not be happy about (the plans) but it allows business to continue and also social distancing,” said Twigg.
One of the more favourable recommendations was to turn some busy roads into a “one-way”, where the other side of the road will be used b informal traders to create the needed distance between the establishments.
Another suggestion was to select special days where informal traders had the opportunity to make use of a parking lot instead of the sidewalk. Twigg also stated that there are some illegal traders who will be forced to close shop for a few weeks in order to get their papers. Again, Twigg cited the clientele who may not be happy about the move.
“It’s not about control… it’s about finding the balance between keeping people safe and business,” said Twigg.
He added that although these plans are short-term goals which need urgent attention because of COVID-19, many recommendations formed part of plans that existed before the lockdown.
Twigg said that everything is expected to be compiled by Thursday, following consultation with businesses, traders, civic association of the area and ward councillor. Visible changes are expected within the next two weeks.