Hawkers want to do trading without police harassment

WHILE hawkers' organisations are still complaining about the manner in which the City of Johannesburg treats them, the city insists its plans are to develop and integrate informal traders into the economy.

Just two weeks ago the One Voice of All Hawkers Association took to the streets demanding that the city dissolve the Metro Trading Company established to help hawkers in Johannesburg.

In a memorandum handed to the city, Ovoaha called for an investigation into allegations of bribes received by Metro police officers from illegal traders.

They also demanded that more stalls be put up to allow more hawkers to trade in the city centre.

Ovoaha further demanded that hawkers be included in the city's plans around trading during the Fifa 2010 World Cup.

But the latest protest by hawkers was different.

Ovoaha founding leader Zacharia Ramutula said hawkers were willing to cooperate.

"We are prepared to relocate to an allotted place and pay the required fee for trading," Ramutula said.

"All we want is to do our business without harassment from Metro police officers."

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said the city had long resolved to integrate informal traders into the economy.

Tugwana further outlined the city's establishment of the MTC.

MTC was formed in 1999 to take care of informal traders and the taxi industry, giving them development support and managing the facilities the city has set aside for their trade.

Since 2006 MTC has helped hawkers to organise themselves yielding up to 30 cooperatives.

It has further organised business training for these cooperatives.

"The city acknowledges the need to sustain a livelihood and explore economic opportunities as very important," said Tugwana.

"But these cannot be met at the expense of commuters, pedestrians, formal businesses and other users of the city who want a clean, safe and well-organised environment."

He said though the city had Fifa obligations in 2010, it would try to minimise disruption of registered informal traders during the tournament.

The executive director of the 2010 World Cup in the City of Johannesburg, Sibongile Mazibuko, said there were already plans to make more opportunities for informal traders.

"There will be fan parks and fan mile boulevards on the roads towards the stadium where informal traders will trade during the World Cup," said Mazibuko.

She said the hawkers intending to trade on World Cup-designated areas can contact the city's economic development unit to get accreditation.