Don’t take us away from our customers, traders ask Mayor Athol Trollip

Informal vendors in Port Elizabeth relocated to site without customers, water, electricity or toilets

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Photo of containers
Relocated traders say their current location is not as busy, has no electricity, water taps or functioning toilets. Photo: Joseph Chirume

About 60 informal traders in Port Elizabeth told Mayor Athol Trollip that they are unhappy with where they have been relocated by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

The traders had operated in KwaDwesi outside Ziyabuya Shopping Centre before they were removed in January, partly due to road construction on the R57. The municipality said the relocation was part of its programme to remove traders from shopping malls and undesignated areas.

The traders say their current location opposite the mall is not as busy, and has no electricity, water taps or functioning toilets. They said they were not given enough time to prepare for the relocation.

On Wednesday, Trollip visited the traders at the new site and issued 23 of them with trading permits.

An elderly woman, who identified herself as Ma Radebe, pleaded with Trollip to build toilets and connect the traders to water. “Please don’t take us away from our customers. We always watch on television informal traders being dumped far away from their customers,” she said.

Ma Radebe manufactures traditional mats, drums, clay pots, African clothing and beadwork. She said she has lost a lot of business as a result of the relocation. She said many of her clients had been foreign tourists.

Trollip said, “The municipality supports informal traders not illegal traders.”

He said traders must be registered on the municipality database, have a permit, trade only in a demarcated area, trade only legal goods, and must be in South Africa legally.”

Trollip told foreign nationals that they will only get a permit after the municipality had verified that their stay in the country with the Department of Home Affairs was legal.

Hairdresser Phakama Masele said her container had already been broken into. “We are afraid of criminals at this site because it is in the bush … There is also too much dust coming from the ground because there is no concrete floor. It becomes difficult to walk when it is raining … We lose business.”

Joseph Kalu, who also has a hair salon, also complained about the dust and said he is spending R100 every day on petrol to power a generator. “If there was electricity, I wouldn’t be using that amount of money every day. This is too much money, given that there is no business on this new site. Our containers are situated far away from our clients … The municipality should have given us mobile toilets and water.”

A trader selling fruits and vegetables told GroundUp: “The municipality should have connected a communal tap first before relocating us. They should also have built sheds for us … To make it worse, there are no toilets … Why didn’t they erect temporary ones at first?”

“I am also angry that we were never informed in time that we were to be moved. Otherwise we could have informed our regular clients. We have lost business as a result.”

A tyre repair trader, who did not want to be named, told GroundUp that by being moved away from the road, the municipality was “taking away our means of survival”.

Trollip said vehicle and tyre repair traders had been advised that they could not continue to trade as the site was not allocated for “light industries”.

The tyre repair man said, “The government is promoting small scale industries, yet Trollip and his administration are doing the opposite.”

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