Gatesville traders upset about work conditions

This derelict building attracts vagrants and contributes to crime in the area.

More than one million people are employed in the informal trading sector of South Africa yet the conditions that they work in are not conducive to their health, says the Gatesville Informal Trading Association (GITA).

According to Stats SA, there has been a 5.1% decrease in the number of informal traders in the country since June last year to June this year.

Former chairman of the GITA, Ubaidullah Safi, said this was due to the numerous challenges that informal traders faced every day, among them few or no toilet facilities, no dirt bins conducive for trading, no control over illegal traders, a lack of safety especially on Saturdays, and no inclusivity from the City of Cape Town when making developmental changes to the area.

He said in 2012 GITA was established so to ensure a good working relationship existed between the City and the traders but the group’s efforts were in vain.

“We are not recognised by the authorities for the contribution that we make to this country’s profits. We are not treated as equals. Is it because they think we are uneducated?

“The majority of these traders are females and they are the only breadwinners in their homes. I pay R567 for three months and I only trade on Saturdays,” he said.

Mr Safi said because there were no industrial bins in which businesses could dispose of their dirt, dumping was commonplace. He added that shop staff often swept their dirty onto the pavements, and this often ended up in the informal traders’ stalls, causing an unpleasant and unhygienic working environment.

“We want to have a place that we and people can be proud of. We want to work together with the council and not fight. Law enforcement targets specific illegal traders but they are still here. We have had these issues for about five years now and the City does nothing about it,” he said.

Mr Safi said it would make sense to separate food stalls from clothing stalls as the clothes often smelt of cooking food, which customers complained about.

“They want to charge us this rent but we have low income people supporting us from areas like Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Hanover Park, and Khayelitsha who take a taxi to get here, so when they push our rent up we have to up our prices and these people can’t afford it,” he said.

He added that new informal traders were not educated about trading by-laws or policies.

“Any developments in the area did not include the opinion of the traders who know the area better than anyone because they are here every day. The City’s mindset needs to change. They are dealing with people, not objects,” he said.

One of the staff members at the Pizza Time store in Gatesville said that there are no bins close to his shop to dispose of dirt. He said because of this he has made an arrangement with a company to collect his dirt which mostly consists of boxes.

“There is no space for the stalls on the pavement when the informal traders are here so how can they say we sweep our dirt onto the pavement? These small bins are not enough and that is why I have an arrangement to collect my dirt. In other areas there dirt is collected up to twice a week but not here,” he said.

Operations manager of Impact Wholesalers, Husayn Tayob, said the green bins that the City provides are repeatedly stolen. He said that because there were no big containers to dispose of boxes and plastic, he left it outside of his store from where it was collected. At a meeting held on Tuesday August 7 it was decided that the City’s department of economic development would be engaging with traders and stakeholders to improve working conditions.

The City ofCape Town’s media manager, Luthando Tyhalibongo, said the City would look into the traders’
claim that there were no toilet facilities.

He added that the City had provided three 770-litre bins which had been placed with three informal traders as the other informal traders refused the service, citing insufficient storage space.

Mr Safi said he was not aware of this.

Mr Tyhalibongo added: “The City has three cleaning shifts doing sweeping of the centre and cannot confirm if shop owners are indeed sweeping their waste onto the pavement. The Gatesville area is patrolled by the Informal Trading Unit every Saturday when business and public footfall is at its peak. During the rest of the week the Gatesville trading site is quiet.”

He added that inclusive public participation with stakeholders was obligatory in all instances where the City was undertaking major developments in any area.

President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janine Myburgh, said given the high unemployment rate, the chamber believed everything possible should be done to encourage informal trading at organised markets as it is the first point of entry into the commercial world and it can be a life-changer.

“Assisting and supporting informal traders means helping those who are prepared to help themselves and that is always a good policy. The chamber would like to see more informal markets but it is essential that they are well positioned and supported by the necessary facilities and services.”