Struggle continues for traders

There are currently no traders at the civic centre in Fish Hoek.

Fish Hoek’s informal trading plan was reviewed in September last year to create a “well-managed trading environment for all users”, but this has not happened, say the owners of a coffee truck.

The plan claimed that the City recognised the importance of informal traders and their contribution to the economy and the reduction of poverty and that they created jobs and added to household income.

However, a year after the plan was revised, there are no trading bays available in Fish Hoek despite most bays being empty.

The City claims the bays are empty because they are leased and traders are not required to trade off-season which is, according to the City, from March 1 to October 30. Peak season is from November 1 to February 28.

The Good Coffee Co coffee truck owners, Capucine Thomas and Ann Hodgkinson, say they have been trying since February to get a trading bay.

“The City has sent us from pillar to post, and it has become clear to us that there is no intention from the City to help us. The City official responsible for area economic development in the south is not even reading our mails as the read receipt remains unread ,” Ms Thomas said.

The couple, who own a travel agency, lost their income due to Covid-19 and bought a coffee truck. They traded in their front garden until the municipality closed them down in June (“Give us a break, say traders,” Echo July 8).

“We have followed all procedures to a tee, and yet we are told that no trading bays are available. We are interested in a trading bay at the civic centre or alternatively at the beach,” Ms Thomas said.

They were told that the two bays at the civic centre would be advertised in local papers and on the City’s e-portal, but, to date, this has not happened.

Ms Thomas said she went to the civic centre on Monday last week and a City official told her that he was not aware of any traders being approved for the bays there.

The City claims the trading bays at the beach are leased, but Ms Thomas said she went to the beach weekly and had never seen traders there.

Ms Hodgkinson said there should be a clause in the contract to say that if you don’t trade regularly you will lose your bay.

Ms Thomas said they had all their paperwork in place and had been granted permission to serve food such as “boerie rolls”.

“We have our hawker’s license and certificates from the health inspector. In addition, we have compliance certificates to use gas but have nowhere to trade,” she said.

The coffee truck is now operating at the Fish Hoek Pre-Primary School.

In the meantime, the couple have applied for City permission to trade as a home shop from their property for five years.

Sharon Parker, the former co-owner of the Sausage Salloon, said they had sold their food truck after experiencing the same problem.

“We had tried for four years to get a trading bay and eventually started looking in other areas, such as Blouberg, but it was too far away for a daily commute.”

The final straw for them was in 2019, she said, when the Netball Association of South Africa had given them permission to be an official food vendor at the netball championships on Fish Hoek beach but they had been forced to leave an hour into trading by the management of The Galley restaurant.

“Law Enforcement told us that they had all the paperwork yet the woman from the restaurant said there was a discrepancy in the paperwork.”

Ms Parker said a Law Enforcement officer had then volunteered to go to Plumstead and collect the paperwork.

“When he returned with the paperwork, there was one page that was not signed by a City official, and because it was a Saturday we couldn’t get it signed and we had to pack up and leave,” she said.

She said that in their search for a trading bay they had discovered that vendors often leased bays that were next to each other to prevent competition.

“This is the problem with making the annual fees so low. Vendors often lease more than one bay, and the City doesn’t manage it properly. They are happy as long as they are paid,” she said.

She said the same was true for Muizenberg when they enquired about bays there.

Mayoral committee member for community service and health Zahid Badroodien said the City has a three-year contractual arrangement with traders using beach trading bays.

“Traders pay to utilise the space at any given time throughout the term of their agreement. Taking into consideration legal compliance challenges, accommodating multiple users at this time is not possible as this would require a policy change,” he said.

Mayoral committee member for urban management Grant Twigg said the permit fee for Fish Hoek bays was R107 per trading bay per month and in terms of the City’s Informal Trading By-Law, only one bay was allowed per trader.

All applications, he said, were assessed through the automated informal trading permitting system on the City’s e-portal. Each question that the applicant answered was given a weighting and the highest weighting was then recommended for approval. The system was deliberately computer-based to avoid allegations of favouritism or bias through human intervention, he said.

He added that, out of courtesy, a City official had agreed to find out if the beach traders would be willing to surrender any of the sites, but no feedback had been received as yet.

The co-owner of The Galley, Mathea Eichel, said they had never leased a trading bay from the City. “We only trade from the restaurant and the outside tables and have never had a need for trading bay,” she said.

She said she was not involved in the 2019 incident with the Sausage Saloon and referred the Echo to the City, Law Enforcement, and the Netball Association.

The trading bay the beach has been empty for some time.