A City of Cape Town crackdown on informal businesses has been described as “extremely detrimental” and exacerbating “an already very serious situation” in the context of widespread unemployment and poverty.
This is the view of two researchers involved in studying poverty and urban development.
The city is using the Land Use Planning Ordinance (LUPO) 15 of 1985 and a Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Nuisances By-Law to clampdown on small businesses operating out of shipping containers or on pavements in areas not zoned for business.
But it denies a clampdown, arguing that it is trying to promote fair and legal trade amongst businesses without business permits.
City Specialised Law Enforcement Services chief Rudolf Wiltshire said 23 containers from Delft, Belhar and Mitchell’s Plain had been impounded since November 16.
The approach to informal traders has sparked anger, with about 300 traders marching to the Cape Town civic centre in protest on Tuesday, threatening to disrupt 2010 if their concerns are not heard.
David Neves, a researcher at the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) said many traders counted on the December holiday period to boost incomes.
Closures were likely to be “extremely detrimental” to the livelihoods of informal traders and their larger households, he said.
And Caroline Skinner, a senior researcher at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) African Centre for Cities, said 770 000 jobs had been lost in the South African economy from September 2008.
In this context, the city’s actions would “exacerbate an already very serious situation”.
This was not to say that the city did not have a right to move traders, she said, but that viable alternative trading spaces needed to be found.
She said data showed that informal traders had large numbers of dependents and provided an important service to poorer households.
Neves said consumers in the communities the traders served might spend their money elsewhere.
Poor communities were not only poor because of the absence of resources, but rather that the resources they accessed such as social grants and small irregular wages did not circulate within these communities, instead swiftly leaving to fill the tills of large corporations, he said.
If informal traders were being displaced without the provision of alternative trading sites it was “extremely disconcerting”.
“Due attention ought to be provided to the provision of viable, alternative trading sites for informal traders, and this should obviously be done before their livelihoods are disrupted,” he said.
Businessman Sulayman Arnold, who has seven shipping containers in Delft from which he runs fruit and vegetable shops, said he employed 15 people. None of his containers had been closed, but he said city officials had told him they would “be back”. He accused the city of not doing what was in the interest of the community.
When asked why the city was now taking a tough line, Wiltshire said previously there had not been enough resources to act.
He said the City had responded to complaints from communities and had then moved to city-wide enforcement.
He acknowledged it was “unfortunate” that the enforcement of the law had coincided with the festive season.
Specialised Law Enforcement Services deputy chief Neil Arendse said the city’s department of economic development was looking into creating more designated informal trading areas so as to enable those who applied for business permits to trade there.
– West Cape News