Taxi drivers, traders in stand-off
Turf war over R1.3bn Mamelodi mall far from over; vendors’ leader not in court
THE Mamelodi Regional Mall impasse took another turn yesterday when police were called to defuse a stand-off between taxi drivers and informal traders at Denneboom train station.
The drivers threatened to forcefully remove the traders from the site earmarked for a portion of the R1.3 billion mall.
The drivers recently joined the fray between traders and mall developers, Isibonelo Property Services, which has been brewing for months.
They accused traders of being stumbling blocks to development in the township by refusing to vacate.
Last month, they took part in the demolition of trading stalls by apparently instructing a subcontractor to use a bulldozer to destroy them.
Their aggressive move flew in the face of an application by traders in the high court last week in which they want action to be taken against the City and Isibonelo for being in contempt of a court order obtained in February.
That order prohibited the erection of a fence, which went up a few days ago around the trading space, allegedly by order of the City.
In terms of the ruling, the traders should be provided with an alternative trading space before relocating.
The traders now seek to hold accountable mayor Solly Msimanga and project head Shadrack Mthethwa for trampling on their constitutional rights to make a living.
The 286 traders, represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, have asked the court to intervene after a fence was put up around their trading space.
Prior to the February court order, the City had disconnected electricity and water supply to the traders’ shelters, but the court ordered the connections be restored.
Yesterday, traders told the Pretoria News that taximen unexpectedly arrived at their trading area at around 8am, demanding they packed their belongings and vacated the site.
“They told us that they would want the construction of the mall to go on,” said trader Gloria Nkwatse.
Nkwatse lamented the bad treatment by the taximen, claiming they were sent by the mall developers.
She said traders were in most instances let down by the police, who failed to stop the demolition of their stalls last month.
Nkwatse said she would like Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to come down to Denneboom and read the court order out to the Mamelodi SAPS officers and developers.
“Maybe if Mbalula could come down here to read it out for them, things could get better. We want him to also explain to us if Mamelodi has a police station or not.
“Every time we report our harassment at the hands of developers, the City and taxi drivers, the police refuse to take action,” she said.
Nkwatse said the traders stood up to the taxi drivers and refused to leave.
“We called the police, who came to quell the tension by asking taxi drivers to desist from making threats against the traders,” she said.
Taxi drivers, who refused to be identified, accused the traders of delaying the mall development by refusing to relocate from the construction site.
Trader, Mercia Monyai said: “We don’t have money to take care of our children’s school fees anymore. My children remind me every day that they want to go to school.
“I have two children and I am self-employed.”
Another, Anna Ramphisa, complained that she had fallen sick because of the ongoing harassment meted out against them.
“I used to provide for my family but now I am unable to because of the ongoing harassment.
“The developer has failed to provide us with enough containers. We have asked Isibonelo if we could come back to trade here after the mall had been built, but there is no answer.”
Ramphisa said she was still unhappy with the recent demolition of their stalls, saying they had lost everything that belonged to them.
“We want the City and developers to repay the damages for our goods,” Ramphisa said.
Meanwhile, a case of malicious damage to property involving the traders’ leader Mary Choma was not heard in court yesterday.
Choma was expected to appear in the Mamelodi Magistrate’s Court following her arrest, after part of the fence was taken down. She, however, did not appear because her name was not on the court roll.
Police said they would wait for feedback from the court to establish the reasons why the matter was not listed on the court agenda.
Informal traders near Denneboom train station are refusing to move from the site, earmarked for a section of the Mamelodi Regional Mall.