News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

Metrorail burns down hawkers’ stalls

A hawker determinedly sets up her sweet stand amidst the burnt out remains of hawkers stalls that were set alight at Khayelitsha station by Metrorail security. Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN

A hawker determinedly sets up her sweet stand amidst the burnt out remains of hawkers stalls that were set alight at Khayelitsha station by Metrorail security. Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN


Metrorail security guards stand accused of burning down about 50 stalls from which hawkers trade at the Khayelitsha train station on Tuesday night, resulting in many of the traders losing the stock they lock up there at night.

Metrorail has claimed the hawkers were illegally trading on Metrorail property and “rubble and waste” was burnt.

“Traders were requested to remove their belongings from the site. Any confiscated items may be reclaimed after payment of the requisite fine. Remaining rubble and waste was burnt,” stated Metrorail Regional Manager Mthuthuzeli Swartz on Thursday.

Swartz said the hawkers were trading illegally on “railway property” and the intention was “not to deny informal traders or beggars an opportunity to put food on their tables but to restore order to the commuting environment”.

He said the lack of formal trading amenities led to excessive littering, posed a health hazard and became “an additional financial burden.

He said hawkers’ stalls impeded commuters and posed a safety risk in the case of emergency evacuation.

“We cannot compromise the safety of our customers and the cleanliness of premises through illegal/inappropriate trading.”

“We will continue to remove unlawful traders from trains and station but always in compliance to the law,” Swartz said.

Traders, who said they had been harassed by Metrorail security, arrived on Wednesday morning and when they asked where their stalls were, were told to look for them in the fire on the other side of the station.

Hawker Christina Mafenuka, 50, said she’s been selling fruits, sweets and chips at the station for the past 23 years.

The mother of three, said she’s the only bread winner at home and two of her children are studying at University.

“This is the only way, I can feed my family and I’m too old to go find a job. For years I’ve been working here, I managed to send two of my children to university with this money now they said I must not sell here. Metrorail must give us another place to use so we won’t bother them,” said Mafenuka.

She denied having received a specific warning from Metrorail and was shocked to find the stalls burning.

She said the hawkers met with Metrorail last year and it was agreed that the hawkers would trade along a single line to that commuters could easily walk past.

“We did that. If they saw that we were not following the agreement they should have come to us so that we can look for another solution.”

Hawker Tumeka Putase, who sold clothes at the station, said all her stock was missing.

“I came here around ten in the morning and I could not find any piece of my material, everything was gone. Some of us here are single parents and those who are married are working here with their husbands. At least they should have warned us instead of burning our things.”

Putase said female hawkers were also subjected to verbal abuse by Metrorail security.

“Every time when Metrorail chased people, they always send rude boys who tell us that we can sell our bodies,” she said.

Putase said one of the hawkers who insisted on setting up his fruit stall on Wednesday was assaulted by the Metrorail security.

Hawkers said they will protest every day until they get their stalls back.

Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition (WCITC) leader Dan Mkiva said he was not informed of the incident but would investigate. – Nombulelo Damba



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