R5m hub for informal traders

A planned R5-million business hub has a group of informal traders rejoicing that having to work in the open in all weather conditions will soon be a thing of the past.

After more than five years of trading at the Fort Jackson junction near Mdantsane, the group are looking forward to moving into a small facility erected especially for them, by end 2018.

Zoliswa Simandla, an informal business owner in Fort Jackson, helps her customer Jaundre Olivier. Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA

This comes after Buffalo City Metro council last week approved a R2.5million cash injection into the project that has been in the pipeline since last year. The other R2.5-million will come from the Department of Small Business Development.

According to BCM spokeswoman Bathandwa Diamond, the facility will feature a fast food drive-through, a sitdown eating area and conference facility or meeting rooms where traders will be able to hold their meetings, as well as ablution facilities.

Yesterday the traders told the Saturday Dispatch how they used nearby bushes to relieve themselves as there were no toilets anywhere near their businesses which cater for those working in Bhisho, workers from the surrounding Fort Jackson factories as well as Mdantsane prison and police station staff, and those driving through the area.

Zoliswa Simandla, who has been selling food at the hotspot for six years, said: “There are no taps here, no toilets and even the shelters that we do have leak. We have to carry our own water and when we go to the bushes, we are very scared of snakes biting us. When we eat, we have to be mindful of our situation and we don’t eat a lot because we don’t want to go to the bushes to relieve ourselves.”

Currently there are four traders in the busy area selling “smileys” and other cooked food. Together they employ about 14 people.

Another trader, Nowhakazi Kilani from Mdantsane, said: “We are very happy that finally something will be done but the municipality told us that we would have to pay rent once we use the facility. We don’t have a problem with that as long as the place will be secure and have the toilets we need.”

BCM’s Noludwe Ncokazi said the traders’ process of preparing and cooking meals, usually done on open fires, was currently not in line with municipal bylaws and regulations and had a negative impact on the environment. Waste matter was also not being disposed of appropriately.

Diamond said BCM anticipated that the hub would be completed towards the end of 2018.

“We are still busy with the finalisation of the application to the Small Business Development Department. The reason the project could not commence this year is because of a number of technical challenges that includes the issue of ownership of the land which is not owned by the city. However, the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs has since assisted in fast-tracking and unlocking the land issue.”

The traders are to be temporarily removed when construction is under way, but they said they did not want this to be too far from their current trading site as business was booming. — mamelag@dispatch.


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