An angry crowd of almost 200 residents gathered at the Steynsrust Bridge off the R44 in Somerset West last Tuesday, to protest the planned establishment of an informal trading infrastructure for 21 traders in the area between the R44 and Steynsrust Road, one of three such informal areas planned for Somerset West.
Speaking from the back of a bakkie, newly-elected ward 15 councillor Greg Peck fielded questions and objections from the crowd, and tried to explain the rationale behind the planned three informal trading areas proposed for Somerset West, while defending the City of Cape Town’s actions in completing the mandatory public participation process.
“We advertised in three newspapers, one a major daily, as we are required to do by law, advertising the information open day which took place at the Somerset West library hall on August 15,” said Mr Peck.
He said aside from a small group of traders who currently trade in the area, nobody attended the open day, or registered their objections.
Mr Peck explained to the crowd that there are two choices: either the formal trading area is established with a limited number of trading sites – 21 are proposed for the location in question – or there is no formal trading plan in place, in which case it is difficult to regulate informal trading in the area.
“If we formalise it, we can limit traders to the planned number, and provide ablution facilities for them as well.
“If we have no trading plan in place, nothing changes, and there is no control,” he said.
He said it is in keeping with the city’s job creation policy to promote regulated informal trading in leafy suburbs.
“I’ve heard what you have to say, and I’ve made it clear that I want it limited to no more than eight trading sites here,” Mr Peck said, “but there is no guarantee that it will be limited to that number.”
Resident Jakkie de Kok then read an email he had in his possession, from Western Cape Provincial Government land transport chief engineer Malcolm Watters, who noted that the planned informal trading area will conflict with the planned upgrade of the R44/Steynsrust Road intersection, with “financial and environmental impacts”, and urging the City to put its plans on hold.
To tumultuous applause from the crowd, Mr Peck noted that while this put a hold on the process, it did not mean that the establishment of an informal trading area would not happen in the future.