The high crime rate, congestion and over-trading in the Athlone central business district (CBD) are some of the reasons the City of Cape Town is reviewing its current informal trading plan for the area, but the traders say the proposals are potentially detrimental to their businesses.
Yoliswa Gogela from the City’s Area Economic Development department, reported at the latest Sub-council 17 meeting, that the congestion on pavements and the lack of user-friendly structures posed a hazard, and plans were in place to change the size of the trading bays. Ms Gogela explained that the trading area was divided into four market areas.
“Market One is a white elephant. There were allegations of drug abuse taking place in Market 2 – this is the area behind the library.
“Most traders moved to Market Four (around the Busy Corner area).
“At Market Three in George Street, there had been problems. The property owner complained about traders causing a nuisance.
“Going forward, we will be closing Markets One to Three. We will also deal with issues of crime and issues between property owners and traders. Sometimes the structures block the view of the buildings,” Ms Gogela said.
The City’s by-laws allow for 186 trading bays in the Athlone CBD, but there are only 54 active bays.
The current size of each trading bay is two square metres.
Ms Gogela said the bays might increase in size – to make them either three square metres or two-by-four metres. She also announced that only one trading bay would be made available for one family.
The latter was not well received by the traders.
One of the informal traders, Donovan Brandt, said his family has been selling fruit and vegetables for more than 30 years in Athlone. His stall extends over three bays.
“Ten years ago, they implemented trading bays. I was given three bays. Then management changed and they informed me that I can only have one bay. I explained my situation. I employ four people, who are all former prisoners and they might not get work in the formal market. These guys have turned their back on crime, but if they no longer work, they might end up doing illegal things for survival again.
“Then I was told it’s okay, I must just pay for my permit. Now it’s again new management, and again they want to take away two of my three bays. They keep saying they want to help us grow, but how can our businesses grow if they want to make it smaller?” Mr Brandt asked.
He denied that they were causing congestion on the pavements.
His brother Clint Brandt, said they had been plying their trade there since he was seven.
“We have been working for our late father and we have been here for 30 years. We don’t cause any problems for anybody. In fact, we keep Athlone shoppers happy.
“Poverty is already rife in our country. Our prices are very reasonable, and we are of the very few who still allow our regular customers to buy on credit. The pensioners are so happy that they can buy fruit and vegetables at a good price, and be able to pay later. Sometimes, when they come to pay, they thank us by spoiling us with koesisters or milk tart. The City is complaining over nonsense. They must sort out the lack of parking in Athlone. We are here to serve the community. We also have a feeding scheme twice a week,” Clint said.
Shopkeeper Sunny Chauhan, spoke out in support of the Brandt brothers. “People don’t want to shop in the area any more. But because these guys are the cheapest with their fruit and veg, they attract the customers, and indirectly they also help my business,” Mr Chauhan said.
Rashaad Pandy, the owner of Super Fisheries described the Brandt brothers as “family”.
“They have been here for many years. We are like family. We don’t have a problem with them. Even the customers enjoy having them here. They also do not take up a lot of pavement space. What actually takes up the space are the sign boards of formal businesses that they put on the pavements to advertise their goods,” Mr Pandy said.
Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams said he welcomed the trading plan, but he wanted to know how the closure of the three markets would affect the traders in those areas.
“Some traders have been in George Street for more than 20 years and they feel aggrieved that they had to move without consultation. We need to revisit the consultation process. There have been vacant buildings in the area for 10 years. We could ask the owners if the informal traders can utilise those vacant buildings. We need to ask ourselves what is the purpose of a trading plan, and must also see how we can assist,” Mr Adams said.
Athlone News went to the markets which will be closed, to speak to traders, but when we visited, there were no traders on site.