Unused stalls a haven for criminals

Masibulele Zitha and Fezeka Nkubi are appealing to the City of Cape Town to hand the stalls over to people who are willing to trade in them.

The unused stalls near Kuyasa train station and library are a headache for nearby residents who say the rundown building they are housed in has become a hideout for criminals.

The 30 stalls were part of an initiative by the City of Cape Town to house small businesses back in 2007.

Residents say it has been left to crumble for the past 10 years. Masibulele Zitha, a young businessman, said it was heartbreaking to see a good initiative allowed to rot and become a danger to people.

He and another resident, Fezeka Nkubi appealed to the City of Cape Town to allow people to trade in the stalls even if at cost.

Mr Zitha and Ms Nkubi showed Vukani the state of the stalls.

Some stalls were completely ruined and no longer suitable for the purposes initially intended.

Others are still locked and look to be in good condition.

But the unused building concerns the residents.

“They often harbour criminals. People are robbed when they pass here in the evening and mornings. It is either the City gives them to people to operate here.

We went around asking those who have small businesses like selling sweets and apples if they were willing to operate from here. People are willing because this is a good to house them and protect them from rains and the sun,” said Mr Zitha.

Mr Zitha said those who would occupy the stalls would have the advantage because taxis are now operating from Kuyasa library now that there are no trains.

“If only the City can see that people are robbed here, they will give the stalls to people. We have a library here and this will also be helpful to those who come here. Our worry is that the stalls are now used as toilets and are housing the criminals,” he said.

He said back in 2007, the idea to house the small businesses was welcomed and it was a good initiative from the City.

But Ms Nkubi said there was a concern back then.

“The rent was deemed too high by many. Although I cannot remember the amount, some small businesses owners were complaining about the price. But now they are not used, they might as well be given to people at an affordable price,” she said.

She said it was concerning that criminals have taken over the stalls.

Grant Twigg, the City’s Mayco member for urban management, said the trading stalls had been constructed by the Transport Department as a component of the Khayelitsha rail extension.

After the commissioning of the Kuyasa railway station, however, there had been no immediate demand from the community and prospective tenants to occupy these trader stalls which are within the station complex.

He said this was primarily due to the fact that there was very limited footfall generated by the Kuyasa railway station initially as commuters were still relying on taxis to commute.

“With the completion of the Kuyasa regional library and sub-council offices adjacent to the station complex as well as the re-alignment of Walter Sisulu Drive, the demand for trading space began to escalate as footfalls increased and the City engaged the community and placed advertisements in the local media with a view to identifying tenants to occupy the trader stalls.

There were a number of local businesses and traders who put forward their names and an evaluation of prospective tenants was undertaken with a shortlist having been created. Parallel to this process, an evaluation of the condition of the trader stalls was undertaken and it was determined that maintenance would be required, including the replacement of the roller-shutter doors to the units,” he said.

Mr Twigg added that the community leadership had been extensively consulted in this process.

However, they later prevented the proposed maintenance and the tenanting of the stalls. He said leadership would not allow the tenants to occupy the stalls and, as a result, the required maintenance to the stalls had also been put on hold.

“Many subsequent engagements were held with the assistance of the sub-council, the sub-council manager and senior officials and politicians and to date no resolution has been reached and in fact our staff and service providers have been physically threatened by these community members and chased off site. In the interim, we have focused on other priorities in the area until the community allows the City to continue with implementation,” he said.