Taxi drivers, traders in stand-off

Turf war over R1.3bn Mamelodi mall far from over; ven­dors’ leader not in court

Pretoria News - - NEWS - RAPULA MOAT­SHE rapula.moat­she@inl.co.za

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.

PIC­TURE: OUPA MOKOENA/ANA

In­for­mal traders near Den­neboom train sta­tion are re­fus­ing to move from the site, ear­marked for a sec­tion of the Mamelodi Re­gional Mall.

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