Hope for Bay street traders

Workshop looks at updating policy to overcome hawkers’ challenges

The woes of informal traders in Port Elizabeth could finally come to an end, with discussions surrounding new policies under way at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

The plight of informal traders was highlighted yesterday on the first day of a two-day workshop on informal economy policy and strategy development.

A delegation comprising officials from the municipality, the South African Local Government Association (Salga), the Socio Economic Rights Institute (Seri) and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) yesterday discussed ways to refine the existing policy on informal economic development in the metro.

Facilitated by Salga economic development director Charles Parkerson, yesterday’s workshop saw stakeholders identify gaps and faults in the existing policy.

Parkerson said the aim was to develop broad guidelines that would ultimately form the basis of a policy to efficiently deal with street trade.

“There needs to be some background to the policy to help us understand what the issues are as well as what challenges ride the sector,” he said.

He also suggested an ombudsman or regulating body be set up to ensure that law and order were upheld. Covering the management of all permit- related issues and capacity-building, delegates made suggestions that will ultimately be tabled in council at a later stage.

Seri litigation director Nomzamo Zondo said it was critical that the municipality take a human-rights-based approach in refining the policy.

“A human rights approach will create an enabling environment which will make sure that those who make a living through informal trade are able to do so and also possibly create more jobs.

“The only way that this could be done is by recognising every person who is trading as legitimate and providing services and infrastructure to ensure that their businesses flourish.”

Zondo said this would have a positive effect on the city’s economic growth. “The challenge is that informal traders are only regulated by either impounding or confiscating their goods . . . it is important that the city responds by making it easier for informal traders.”

Economic development executive director Anele Qaba said the city was in a state of crisis, with many hawkers trading without proper permits or demarcated areas.

“The policy in place is outdated and there are no demarcated spaces where people can trade.” Qaba said they were taking a new route that would hopefully ensure the sector was prioritised and supported.

“We agree that the policy has been in place for quite some time and it has got gaps in it, [which] have been identified. “There were also a number of challenges that were picked up on.”

An informal trader at Kenako Mall, Nozuko September, 51, said the workshop had given her hope that conditions would improve.

“We appreciate that there is such a workshop, because we sell under a lot of pain, with metro police demanding permits that we do not have, and sometimes even [being] removed,” she said.

“I am hopeful the situation will change. This shows the municipality cares about us and is on our side.”

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