TSHWANE, October 11– Lawyers for Human Rights on Wednesday accused the Tshwane municipality and its developer of a multi-million rand shopping mall at Denneboom, east of Pretoria, for elbowing hundreds of poor informal traders out of their work areas, and their only means of sustenance.
“The traders have had to make way for the development of the mall. We had to rush to court in February as they were being pushed off by the developers and the city,” said candidate attorney Thandeka Chauke, representing the about 300 informal traders. We managed to get a court order that is supposed to cater for all the parties through a process of engagement that would set out the allocation [of a new trading place] and the relocation assisted by the developers.”
She said Tshwane and the developers, Isibonelo Property Services, were obliged to provide containers at the new site, but since February, only a few of the structures have been delivered and the traders are out of work.
“Now, Lawyers for Human Rights is of the view that Isibonelo and the City [of Tshwane] are in contempt of the court order in numerous ways. At this juncture, we have been trying to make attempts at conciliation to resolve the matter amicably,” said Chauke after a meeting involving Tshwane officials, LHR and the traders broke down.
“Today was our last and final attempt. The city had called this meeting, a mass meeting with the traders to tell them what the process will be with the relocation. But the city is still going back and forth on the issue of the containers.
“We don’t see any containers for our clients. We still don’t have clarity on how the relocation process will work, and our last step is just to proceed to court for a contempt of court order against them.”
She said the existing court order was clear that for further construction to continue at the mega shopping mall, the informal traders first had to be moved into a temporary area, nearby.
“Now we have a situation where the traders have literally been pushed off the land. These are 300 families, it is their livelihoods. Right now they have nowhere to go, no one is clear about what happens from now on,” she said.
“We will be seeking a contempt of court order because now it’s a breach of the court order. The court order clearly set out what the responsibility of the City was, in terms of the allocation process, and Isibonelo’s role in the relocation. None of that has happened. That is why we have to go back to court now if we cannot resolve these issues today.”
Earlier, Billy Sepuru, Tshwane’s director responsible urban management tried in vain to explain the relocation process to agitated community members. Sepuru said provisions were being made for containers.
Several community members at the meeting accused Tshwane officials of underhand dealing in the relocation of the traders.
“Right now, there are people already doing business at the place where you are supposed to move us. Money changed hands and our place is taken by people that we don’t know. You love money very much, but one day you are going to regret it,” an old woman told Sepuru.
Some traders said they are on the verge of being destitute, as they had been trading near the busy train station for around 30 years.
The mega mall development is reportedly cost around 900 million. It was officially unveiled by Gauteng Premier David Makhura and former Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa in 2015.