City pumps millions into Langa station

PHIRI CAWE

The City of Cape Town’s environmental and spatial planning directorate says improving the conditions and circumstances of informal traders is a vital part of its agenda to transform the metro’s economy, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

In line with this agenda, the City recently completed its upgrade of the Langa station south public open space at a cost of more than R10.5 million, including the construction of new pavements and the improvement of existing pavements for safe pedestrian movement.

The City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe visited the upgraded site and participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the project.

Mr Van der Merwe said the City is working with informal traders to ensure a “shared purpose and a common vision”.

He said while there has been progress, there are issues including – the conduct and practices of informal traders – that still need to be further discussed.

“The City is serious about informal traders. We have trading plans where we identify spaces for traders. We want to create public spaces which people can use as recreational areas too.

“The Langa area is for the community. It is important that they take initiative and create opportunities. As I have said, the informal trading plan is in process,” he said.

He said apart from the general landscaping aspect of the project, the existing informal trading spaces have also been upgraded to improve the business environment for the informal traders. He said in the same area, a wall of art has been created by local artists to acknowledge the history of Langa and to celebrate its future.

“This forms part of our city-wide efforts to create innovative and inclusive community- and commuter-friendly spaces. However, we need our communities to take ownership of these spaces and to be actively involved in the preservation and promotion of these spaces. It is only through the support of our residents that we can change the face of our communities by building quality-driven, safe public spaces actively used by local neighbourhoods,” he said.

Mr Van der Merwe said over the past decade, the City has focused considerable attention on public space upgrades and other projects in Langa.

He said in December 2015, the last of the 463 households in the first phase of the City’s Langa Hostel Transformation project, took occupation of their new apartments while the upgrades to the Guga s’thebe cultural theatre, has also been completed.

But traders who spoke to Vukani, complained about lack of infrastructure and care, accusing the City of being “too restrictive”.

Fruit and vegetable seller, Michael Nkcaza from Langa, said trading regulations stifled informal traders.

He described the regulations as restrictive and inconsistent rather than developmental. “Their regulations are directed at a certain group of people. There is no flexibility at all.

“There are things they wouldn’t want us to do but they talk of development. I wish they come down to us and talk to us,” he said.

He also accused the City of interfering with their rights to trade and said the City’s informal trader policy failed to address realities that traders experience on the ground. “How does one trade in an open space like this one? There are no ablutions here, no running water, no electricity, no cover, but we must pay. This is a desert. But we just hope it will be enclosed,” he said.

However, Nomtha Dilima, project steering committee chairperson who was involved in the process defended the City and commended it for upgrading the vending spaces, saying they will benefit the community of Langa more than anyone else.

She said although the progress is not enough, they are doing good in developing Langa.

“We still have to develop Langa’s economy more. Through informal trading, we need to create more jobs. This is only the beginning. Slowly but surely Langa will become an economic hub,” said Ms Dilima.