Plan to lease railway land for trading

Some staff at Stikland Hospital knitted for Mandela Day.

Sub-council 4 in Parow has passed a motion to consider leasing railway land near the Parow train station in Cloete Street for informal trading.

Ward councillor Franchesca Walker submitted the motion to sub-council last month, saying leasing the land from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) would solve problems caused by illegal trading in front of the station.

Illegal trading, she said, caused traffic congestion, vagrancy, illegal dumping and anti-social behaviour in the vicinity.

According to the motion, two clean-up operations had taken place there since December last year.

“The clean-ups involve removal of waste as well as illegal structures erected by vagrants who use erf 9018 as a shelter,” the motion reads.

It says this state of affairs creates “an unhealthy and unsafe environment for commuters”.

Ms Walker said the empty lot on Cloete Street, between Station and Louis Trichardt streets, could be used as an extension to the Station Road informal trading area, once Prasa had given the go-ahead.

Marius Wagener, Prasa’s acting manager for real estate asset management, said he and Ms Walker had discussed the possibility of using the land for informal trading.

“PRASA do not regard informal trading as the highest and best use for this property but is, in principle, not opposed to such use as an interim arrangement and on a short-term lease of maximum three years,” he said.

The City of Cape Town still had to make a formal application for the lease.

Michael Witbooi, from Elsies River, trades in front of Parow railway station six days a week, selling second-hand remotes and whatever else he can find. He ended up there four or five years ago because he was unemployed and had a family to support.

On a good day, he makes R200 to R300 – on a bad day it’s down to R50.

He, like the other illegal traders, sells his wares on the sidewalk, but would like to have his own trading bay. “Daar sal ook meer dissipline wees,” he said.

Law enforcement raided the area every now and then and confiscated the traders’ goods.

“Dan doen hulle ook maar net hulle werk,” he said.

Wendy Skorbinski from the PACRIF (Parow Crime Fighters) Neighbourhood Watch said using Prasa land for informal trading was a good idea, but traders in the Station Road Arcade should also be moved, because concerns over safety meant full-time security was needed during trading and peak hours.

“Lots of our community members get robbed and assaulted at Parow station. We need better vigilant policing of the whole area,” she said.

Ms Skorbinski said Cloete Street had many problems, including speeding taxis and properties plagued by drug dealing and prostitution.

“Safety and security is a growing concern in the community,” she said.