Kuils River traders have hailed a meeting with the City of Cape Town last week as constructive and said it had given them a boost and lifted feelings of uncertainty after years of harassment by law enforcement.
The City had met with traders on Monday June 13 at Cape Town International Convention Centre, where they discussed their challenges.
The City said the summit, held jointly with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), had been a culmination of 30 growth coalition engagements that were held across the city.
Feroza Hendricks, from the Nooiensfontein Informal Traders’ Association, who has been trading at the entrance of Kuils River Shoprite for 13 years, specifically heaped praise on Thembinkosi Siganda, the City’s head of economic development.
She said Mr Siganda had not only made their lives easier, but he went on to ensure the traders could have sustainability and understood the economics of trading at a flea market.
She said several members of her family had relied on trading in Kuils River over the years and whenever law enforcement had confiscated her goods, the family would struggle.
“We used to lose everything to law enforcement. But the City has eased that for us and thanks to them, I can now put R250 in my savings account at the end of each month. No more crying,” said a delighted Ms Hendricks.
In 2011, the City relaxed some of the by-laws that made it increasingly difficult for traders and gave over 150 traders’ concessions to those belonging to the majority association, Kuils River Informal Traders’ Association (KITA), in Kuils River. Other associations benefited as well.
Ms Hendricks said for eight-and-a-half years she traded with worry about the next time law enforcement would continue their relentless confiscating of their goods, but now the City and traders have found common ground.
However, Yolanda October, Kita chairperson, said the mission is not complete yet as there is a shortage of bays to cater for the traders.
Ms October said the City had told them at the meeting that it had been dealing with over 188 000 traders across the municipality.
She said when the City gave concessions to some of the traders in 2011, shops at the mall became friendlier with them, even allowing most of them to keep their goods at their stores overnight.
Ms October said the challenges facing traders across the city had been “overtrading”, where several traders sold the same things.
“We also don’t make as much as we did a year ago because the market is flooded.”
The City had advised them to interview potential traders before allowing them to trade and find out what they offered to stave off a “surplus market”, Ms October said.
“The City wants to work hand-in-hand with us in bridging the gap between us and them. They told us we’re a part of their plan to growing the economy and eradicating unemployment.”
Garreth Bloor, Mayco member for tourism, events and economic development, said the meeting had been a collaboration to create a more conducive environment for trading across the city.
He said if the City’s informal economy would shut down, the consequences would have a disastrous bearing on the economy as 170 000 people would have to join the millions of unemployed people.
“These numbers should be quite sobering, especially for many residents and some in the formal business sector who are against any informal trading in their areas.
“Informal traders eke out a living in areas where there is high foot traffic to ensure they can capitalise on the economic opportunities” Mr Bloor said.
The aim of these sessions was to lend a helping hand to the informal sector by listening to their concerns and coming up with solutions, he added.
“The City of Cape Town remains committed to making this progress together with the informal economy players and the private sector.”
He said it is important to look at the transition rates between the informal sector, formal sector and unemployment, as these indicated that the informal sector is more likely to absorb people who leave formal sector employment, rather than to reduce the pool of the unemployed.
“In this respect the two barriers to growth most frequently cited by owners of informal businesses are access to better locations and stifling government regulations – both of which have implications for how the City of Cape Town can best maximise the sector’s potential to help reduce unemployment and poverty. This is a challenge we need to tackle together to make progress possible and help to grow the informal economy exponentially,” said Mr Bloor.
The informal economy represented a diverse array of economic activities including financial services, healthcare, retail in food and beverages, recycling, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, and the repair of personal and household goods, to mention just a few, he said.