Mangaung Metro Municipality says it wants to work closely with informal traders because they play an important role in growing local economies.
Executive mayor Councillor Olly Mlamleli told The Weekly in an interview on Tuesday that the city has several programmes in place aimed at ensuring informal traders operate freely within their communities and also followed council laws so as to maintain order.
She said due to misunderstandings with community members, some foreign nationals running small businesses in the townships had fallen victims to xenophobic attacks and the municipality continued to intervene in order to address the problems.
“Some foreigners have turned RDP houses into their businesses and some community members are not happy with that,” noted Mlamleli.
“What happened is that our people, trying to make money, rented their RDP houses to the foreign nationals. Some of the foreigners then set up spaza shops in the yard, causing some people to target them whenever there are protests or gang fights in those communities. These people are not paying rent for their businesses and that’s not how it should be.
“So, we have been talking to them saying they must follow our laws and also ensure they sell quality products that don’t endanger people’s lives. We have also been talking to our people that if they want to go into business, they should be prepared to learn from others and compete. Business is all about competition,” she added.
Mlamleli said this following calls by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Zweli Mkhize for mayors and councils to stop what he called the unleashing of municipal police on informal traders and find ways of working with them.
“I understand where the minister is coming from. He is saying South Africa belongs to all who live in it. Give them an opportunity to do business, but clean business. So, when something is not right, people mustn’t gossip. They must report. As Mangaung, we have joint operations that we embark on with the SA Police Service. We go with our health inspectors to check and if we find something wrong, we close the place. And most importantly, informal traders must keep their money in the bank and they must not sleep inside the shop. It’s unhygienic,” said the mayor.
Mkhize said this was important because informal traders are key to the development of local economies.
The minister made this call at the Council of Mayors meeting hosted by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in Cape Town last week.
The meeting was held under the theme “Enhancing the Role of municipalities in promoting Investment and Job Creation”.
“There is a need to find ways of licensing informal traders and other innovative ways need to be found to mainstream the traders. Some of the efforts already underway involve the conversations with the dti and department of Small Business Development,” Mkhize said.
“Small business is at the heart of creating employment and each municipality should be leading in creating employment in their spaces. Each municipality needs to find the way to do the basics to attract and retain investment. Over and above that, each mayor and council needs to find the competitive edge to attract more investment which could include the development of industrial parks,” he noted.
He also called on municipalities to identify land for industrial park developments, especially near townships where there is high unemployment and not only focus on human settlements.
In terms of supporting infrastructure in municipalities, the minister announced that through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent, at least 150 engineers will be appointed and sent to various areas. An important part of that initiative, according to the minister, will be a drive to recruit young graduates to be mentored and be part of that support given to municipalities.
Mkhize acknowledged that the issue of electricity reticulation have been a problem but indicated that Cabinet has now approved a framework to sort out this issue and CoGTA and other department are now working on the implementation plan.
He also indicated that CoGTA and SALGA are continuing to sort out the issues around the appointment of municipal managers to ensure the smooth operation of municipalities.
The Cape Town gathering provided a platform for mayors to meet annually and address the challenges they experience. It is also as a platform that can be used for learning, sharing and reflecting. The meeting also allows an opportunity for focused discussions on the realities of the executive arm of municipalities.