Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) traffic officers have been visible around Komani checking vehicle driver’s licences and on Tuesday, removing hawkers who illegally put up stalls along Cathcart Road.
The visibility of traffic officers began last week when they were spotted randomly stopping cars to check their roadworthiness and whether the drivers were eligible to be behind the steering wheel.
This week, the officers were cleaning out the CBD, removing hawkers who had stalls in areas that were not permitted and those whose permits to have stalls had expired.
One of the hawkers who had a fruit stall near a petrol station, Boniwe Mapeyi, said two female traffic officers approached her and took all her fruit and a bucket of cooked corn which she would sell to feed her family.
“I have been selling fruit near the garage for almost 20 years and they just came and took everything I had worked hard for. When we enquired about what they were doing, we were told we needed to move because people were being mugged in that area. We were not even given an eviction notice about this. They surprised us, taking everything we had. I do not know what I will do because I am unemployed and used the money earned from my stall to send my children to school and feed my family.”
A sobbing Mapeyi said she and other hawkers went to enquire at the municipal offices about the incident and were told their items had been thrown away.
Hawker Noluthando Nkibitsholo who has a stall near the Lukhanji Mall said the traffic officers took items from her on Monday due to her stall being erected where it was not supposed to be.
“I do not know what to do now because I have no money for all the merchandise they took. What are we supposed to do now because we do this to feed our families since there are no jobs and yet the municipality is trying to destroy our efforts. There are no other available areas where we can put up our stalls around the CBD and that is where most money is made. What are we supposed to do now?” she asked.
EMLM manager in the office of the mayor, Butsha Lali, said the local authority had by-laws which governed and restricted the areas where stalls in town could be, and permits were obtainable from the municipal offices.
“Our law enforcement section (which is responsible for public safety) has officers available for whenever notices have been sent to those who are contravening the laws. A certain period after the notices have been sent, evictions and confiscation of items take place. This is a continual activity of the law. We even go to the extent of interacting with Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to find a way to mitigate on whatever their circumstances are so that ultimately people are allocated areas in which stalls can be put up in town.”
Lali said the confiscated items were kept at the municipal public safety storage offices for a certain period, in which owners are supposed to reclaim their goods and pay a fine, the amount of which is determined by the kind of items and the quantity thereof.
“The last time we conducted this exercise was in December. We even interacted with organisations the hawkers are affiliated with, to give them notices as a means to minimise the contravention of the law. They get a seven-day notice, which is merely to alert them that raids and eviction may happen any day. Most hawkers who follow the law have renewable permits and know exactly where they cannot put up stalls, they have stands that belong to them which they rent from the municipality.”
Lali indicated that those who claimed not to have been notified about the evictions would have to be dealt with as specific cases and that hawkers needed to understand the notices did not indicate when evictions would take place, but only gave a warning.