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By Mhlaba Memela | Jul 10, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

HEAVILY armed Metro Police drove away hundreds of traders and workers without permits who arrived for work as usual yesterday at the Early Morning Market in Durban.

HEAVILY armed Metro Police drove away hundreds of traders and workers without permits who arrived for work as usual yesterday at the Early Morning Market in Durban.

Wheelbarrow haulers who unload fresh produce from trucks and take it to the traders' stalls were refused entry. Even truck drivers who deliver produce for the traders were turned away and the gates to the market locked.

Fruit and vegetables were left to bake in the sun because the barrow loaders did not have permits to be on the premises.

The municipality is demolishing the 99-year-old market and moving the traders to make way for a multimillion-rand mall at Warwick Junction.

Despite the traders' protests, eThekwini municipality is determined to press ahead with its plans to rejuvenate the Warwick Triangle precinct.

On Wednesday mayor Obed Mlaba said the R1,5billion project to transform the sprawling precinct would give the area a facelift, enhance mobility, reduce traffic congestion and ensure commuter safety. He said the transport plan over the next five years would be centred on the controversial R400million Warwick Mall, to be built on the site of the Early Morning Market.

Traders stood around confused and angry yesterday after being refused entry to their usual business premises.

Police refused to talk to Sowetan as they turned away workers who move fresh produce to stalls.

Thembile Xaki said there was no need for the police to brandish rifles while demanding the new permit. "We had applied for the permit," he said. "We are being humiliated. We help the traders transport their produce on our wheelbarrows, but we are being refused entry. We have been doing this for years.

"The municipality started with the traders and now they are targeting us."

Donald Amla, a farmer, said he came to the market as usual to deliver goods to his customers but was refused entry.

"All deliveries were stopped. Now the barrow pullers are being targeted as well."

Traders' association chairperson Harry Ramlall said his members were furious.

"Hundreds of rands worth of produce has been left to rot in the sun. The market was closed and all trucks were refused entry to offload.

"All traders will attend a public participation meeting at the Durban International Convention Centre at lunch today."

Ramlall said the municipality had not told anyone that entry to the market would be restricted to permit holders.

"The barrow loaders transport the goods from the trucks to the stalls. Why they are being refused entry is confusing."

Thulani Nzama, senior manager of business support and markets for eThekwini municipality, said the police had not stopped the barrow pullers or traders from working at the market.

"We are applying the law. They know that they should have a permit to operate in the market. There have been complaints that the barrow pullers sometimes disappear with the produce and they cannot be traced.

"Permits, in the form of cards with the barrow puller's name and picture, will be the only way to trace them when they disappear with people's belongings.

"Pullers have applied before and they know about this," Nzama said.


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