Bloekombos traders in rent tussle

SOYISO MALITI

Bloekombos traders at the Uluntu Plaza have been meeting with recently elected Ward 101 councillor Luyanda Mbele to find common ground with the City over renting at the business hub.

The traders came under the spotlight during the Sub-council 7 meeting on January 18. The plaza has three areas called phases, each of which has its own hive of trading bays. The City says some of the traders, those at phase 3, have not been paying rent.

Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, said tenants defaulting on their rent was one of the reasons why this City asset was underperforming.

“The unfortunate part was that the project was meant to incubate small businesses in the area and thereby improve livelihoods. However, the non-payment of rental is threatening the viability of this project and will negatively affect all those who were identified as beneficiaries,” Mr Bloor said.

The City had delegated authority to an external partner, Micro Enterprise Development Foundation, a non-profit organisation to manage the facility, find tenants and collect rent.

Mr Bloor said the City had not prescribed how much rent the NPO could charge but it had been agreed in writing that it could not be an exploitative amount.

The rents had varied depending on the size of each tenant’s business.

Mr Bloor said the NPO had also had to ensure that all tenants and traders received help accessing business support and development service.

He said the failure of businesses in phase three, opposite the transport interchange, to paying rentals to the City had created an unfair situation.

“The operator could also not get the buy-in and support of the Bloekombos Development Forum, an unregistered forum that insisted that they be consulted regarding any activities taking place within all three facilities.

“This lack of support from the local community led to these facilities becoming a regular victim of vandalism with the hives being damaged on numerous occasions.”

Asked about the City’s plan regarding the traders in Bloekombos, Mr Bloor said: “In consultation with various internal departments, the economic development department has embarked on a process to allocate long-term rights to an external entity to manage all three facilities as the current operator was already starting to show that business could be stimulated at the hives with the correct training and mentorship.

“The allocating of long-term rights would also ensure that the approved operator has the responsibility to use, manage and control the Bloekombos hives in their entirety.

“Long-term rights would also allow them to raise the necessary resources required to turn the hives around from a loss-making entity into one which would start to make profits and contribute to it becoming sustainable through support from various private sector and government incubation support agencies.”

He said to achieve success in this regard would require a common vision, support and buy-in from all the relevant local stakeholders.

The City said it didn’t recognise the Bloekombos Development Forum as a formal structure and didn’t have any formal contact with them.

“We only deal with organisations registered on the Sub-council database,” Sub-council 7 municipal manager Carin Viljoen said.

Attempts to get hold of forum’s members proved futile.

The traders were supposed to meet on Monday February 8 with Mr Mbele, but the meeting was cancelled until today. They said they would speak to the Northern News after the meeting, but we had not heard from them by the time this edition went to print.