Lack of permits, crime bad for business

Abubakar Blankenberg, the treasurer of the Athlone Informal Traders Association, says his organisation is dedicated to decent trading.

A spokesman for Athlone’s informal traders says they have a tough time doing business because the City of Cape Town gives them the run-around over permits and crime is bad.

Abubakar Blankenberg, treasurer of the Athlone Informal Traders’ Association, says they are swamped by complaints from traders over permits.

“There are a lot of people who are trading without a permit, and the area manager is never available. Now traders are arguing among themselves and complain to us.

“One trader cannot hold another trader responsible for not having a permit. We used to go to Ledger House in the Athlone central business district to renew our permits, but we never get the area manager in the office and we can only do it through that person. There are a lot of issues that must be dealt with.

“We want to uplift Athlone, but we can only do it with the City of Cape Town, the police and law enforcement. The latter has not been patrolling regularly lately,” Mr Blankenberg said.

Area central Mayco member Siyabulela Mamkeli said an area manager for Athlone had not been appointed yet.

“The area is currently being serviced by Ms Boyang Avril Dibakwane, until such time as the vacancy is filled. The incumbent is capable and has been attending to all issues regarding informal trading in the area.

“Currently, the City does not have a walk-in office in the Athlone area. Arrangements are being made for Ms Dibakwane, or an official from the department, to be at the Athlone Ledger House to attend to enquiries at least two days a week.

“This arrangement will be communicated to the traders as soon as the logistics have been finalised. It is true that the manager who previously serviced the area was situated at Ledger House, but the current acting area manager is situated at our Parow offices,” Mr Mamkeli said.

Regarding the renewal of permits, he added: “The cash offices where traders pay to renew their permits will inform the traders who the responsible official is for each area. At this time there may be delays, as the current acting area manager serves another area as well. The issue will be resolved once the appointment of the new area manager is finalised.”

The traders have also complained that there are a lot of unused trading bays but they’re told to apply for them online and then have to wait up to three months for an answer.

But Mr Mamkeli disputes this. “The department is not aware of any situation where traders have had to wait three months for an answer.

“When trading bays are advertised online, the advert closes within 14 days, after which the system automatically screens and informs the successful candidate/s. An SMS is automatically generated and sent to the successful candidates prompting them to contact the district area manager to finalise the application.

“As the system is new, there were technical glitches in the beginning, which have subsequently been attended to.”

He said law enforcement officers checked permits intermittently, but would also investigate if they got specific complaints.

Mr Blankenberg said he had been trading in the area for 50 years but the high crime rate there now made him want to throw in the towel.

But Ronald Campher, from the Athlone City Improvement District (Athcid), claimed crime in Athlone had declined significantly.

“As Athcid, we do employ public safety officers, but we are limited because of our budget. The City also has CCTV cameras that operate in the area. However, every now and then, there is a situation.

“SAPS is generally on the board, and we will arrange a meeting with them soon to see how we can address the concerns. The traders must partner with us, and must also be responsible to ensure that the area is kept clean,” he said.

Athlone informal traders can contact Ms Dibakwane via email atBoyangAvril.Dibakwane@ or call 021 444 2747.