Trading plan derailed

A plan to clean up a piece of crime-plagued railway land in Cloete Street, Parow, by setting up a market there for traders has been sunk by a lack of money.

Ward 26 councillor Franchesca Walker tabled a motion in April for the City of Cape Town to lease the site from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to accommodate about 150 informal traders selling their goods along a Parow train station fence.

But Liesl Kenny, from the City’s economic development department, told Sub-council 4 last week that “budget cuts” meant the City could not afford to lease the plot for the market.

Earlier this year, Ms Kenny said the department was still waiting on a quotation from Prasa to see if it could afford to fund the project.

Ms Walker said she was “unhappy” with the decision because Cloete Street was notorious for drugs, crime and grime.

“We need to address this issue; that is not a great street. This is a serious issue and we need to also look at the anti-social behaviour occurring in and around Parow train station,” she said.

Ms Walker said there were 148 active traders in the train station precinct. The area was strewn with litter, did not have a proper taxi rank and was home to several street people. Crime was also a problem, specifically drug peddling, robberies, shootings, stabbings, and drinking in public.

Sub-council 4 chairman Chris Jordaan said the “entire precinct” around Cloete Street needed to be revamped as prostitution and drug peddling were rampant.

Ward 25 councillor Beverley van Reenen echoed their concerns. “Informal trading spaces need to be identified in our wards. We need to start engaging with the various departments within the City to find a space where these people can trade,” she said.

Ms Walker suggested sub-council host a once-off mayoral market at the municipal offices. Some at the meeting were worried this could attract crime, but Mr Jordaan said law enforcement officers could be deployed to prevent that.

Homeless couple Jacobus Engelbrecht and Klara Maritz, both 63, trade along the train station fence in Cloete Street, selling odds and ends they “skarrel” for in bins.

“I can’t work because of my disability,” said Mr Engelbrecht.

“I suffer from epilepsy and high blood pressure, and my girlfriend broke her ankle and had two metal plates inserted into it.”

Mr Engelbrecht said they lived in the open along Cloete Street and were harassed by “tik koppe” at night. “Here, you must sleep with one eye open,” he said.

Informal trader Alice Jones, 67, of Belhar, spends R18 two days a week to travel to Parow station to sell her ribbons and hair accessories.

“I get a pension, but that is not enough to sustain me. I need to make a little more money on the side. One day I only made R2 and you never know how many sales you will make in a day. I just have to have faith and trust in God,” she said.

Mike van Mari, 71, who sells vegetables along the thoroughfare across from Parow station, has been trading at the same spot for more than 20 years.

“Over the last 10 years, crime has increased, and the City and police are doing sweet bugger all. There are many gangsters robbing people here during broad daylight,” he said.

Informal trader George Samuel is originally from the Congo and sells clothing. He said people were robbed frequently in the area.

“The police don’t patrol as they used to. These thieves also steal our stock, and the police don’t want to look for the thieves. They just want witnesses to the crimes to come forward, which doesn’t help crime in the area,” he said.

Earlier this year, Marius Wagner, Prasa’s acting manager for real estate asset management, told Northern News he and Ms Walker had discussed the possibility of using railway land for informal trading.

“Prasa don’t 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 (“Plan to lease railway land for trading,” Northern News, May 17).

Ms Walker said she would now seek other ways to clean up Cloete Street. “I have engaged with the business people and there are plans for to upgrade that precinct.”

She said Prasa, the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) and various neighbourhood watches had been involved in clean-ups in the area.

“Our last clean-up was two weeks ago, and we are trying our utmost best to keep the area clean and safe for the community,” she said.

Parow police, VRCID and Prasa did not respond to Northern News’ questions by the time this edition went to print