The long wait for a trading permit

| Tariro Washinyira
Informal traders wait at Fezeka Municipal offices. Photo by Tariro Washinyira.

At least 40 Zimbabwean informal traders fear they may lose their livelihoods after delays in getting informal trading permits from Fezeka City Council offices in Gugulethu.

The traders need the documents to renew their temporary residence permits with the Department of Home Affairs.

When GroundUp visited the Fezeka offices last week, dozens of traders, some of whom said they had been told to come back that day, were waiting outside. The door of room 34 where the permits are issued, was locked,

At around 8am when this reported asked in room 36 why room 34 was closed, she was told to go and wait outside, the official might come after 10:00. At 10am, GroundUp was told: “Here is a key to room 34, the person who works there is not here and we do not know where he is.” When GroundUp asked to see the manager, but was told all the managers were based in Cape Town.

A media liaison official suggested the few traders still waiting for attention should leave their names and wait to be contacted.

One of the applicants, an elderly woman who said she had been trading in South Africa since 1978 when she had entered the country through a women’s club, said, “I hope telling us to leave our details and go back is not just their tactic for sending us away. We are desperate to have these documents. Our lives depend on them. I have been selling doilies and craftware here in South Africa before you were born.”

She said she needed the permit in order to renew her residence documents.

“I have been to this office more than five times. Every time I come here to follow up on the application I am losing business, and I use R20 in bus fare.”

She said a friend had told her that officials had thrown the applications “in the bin” and that a decision had been taken not to issue trading permits to Zimbabweans any more.

A 65-year-old trader told GroundUp: “I am a widow and my six children all passed away from AIDS. They left 12 grandchildren who I am taking care of back home. Getting this informal trading permit means a lot to me to continue to buy food, clothes and pay school fees for my grandchildren.”

She said she had been verbally abused by an official.

“I get stomach cramps when I enter this gate, at the thought of facing the official… talking to me in that ill manner again and again. I expect people who work with the public to be friendly and professional.”

Acting Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Johan van der Merwe, said the city did not yet have the necessary information from the applicants.

He advised the traders to urgently provide the City with specific information relating to their applications and to wait to be contacted.

Van der Merwe said the City welcomed feedback from the community. He apologised for problems with the locked office and said the City would look into the matter.

He said the office had been kept open since and traders’ queries had been dealt with.

The City would investigate claims of xenophobic statements by officials. “The City treats all people with dignity and respect and does not discriminate against anyone based on their nationality or gender,” said Van der Merwe.

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