“If you take away his trade, you are killing him”

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Mor Fall grew up in Senegal and used to watch videos of the Soweto uprisings in primary school – and he would donate five francs each day to help South Africans achieve freedom.

Now an informal trader at Greenmarket Square, Fall adjusts his racks of tapestries and necklaces and calmly says that freedom is still a distant dream.

“Freedom means having a nice life like everyone else,” Fall says.

“Each trader is poor with no schooling, no qualifications and a family to support. If you take away his trading, you are killing him.

“This is not freedom. Let him get his bread, it is better than making crime.”

Fall, 46, is referring to the draft Informal Trading Bylaw, which will seek to regulate and demarcate informal trading sectors throughout Cape Town.

The proposed bylaw in-cludes new requirements for receiving trading permits.

It was approved unanimously by two city committees on Thursday, and will be subject to a public participation process before being submitted to the full council by August.

Fall traded on the Cape Town station deck before moving to Greenmarket Square six years ago. He pays R100 daily rent to Buddy Chabaan, who is a member of the African Muslim Party which leases Green-market Square from the city council.

Fall now rents a workshop on Long Street where workers produce the tapestries he designs. He says he is worried about the regulations forcing traders with similar goods to change their wares or face eviction.

“I produce my own goods so if they say I must stop making a type of tapestry, then four people may lose their jobs,” he says, pointing to a zebra stripe pattern on mahogany fabric.

“I will survive if they crack down, but what about the others? Some of them I have taken drunk off the streets and given them jobs, because I wanted to contribute to this country.”

Zimbabwean trader Fanuel Fish worked on Long Street and Greenmarket Square for four years before moving to St George’s Mall.

He rolls his eyes and idly fiddles with his bracelet while he reads an article on the bylaw.

“Why is it that the government always tries to oppress and force out the foreigners and working people?” Fish asks.

“The system is not on our side.”

On the other end of the square, IG Ebden grins through a mess of greying dreadlocks as he sells a red, green and yellow lighters embossed with a dagga leaf. Ebden and his brother live in District Six and are members of the reggae band Roots Rockers.

They have each run Rasta stands on Greenmarket Square for more than two years.

Ebden says he believes the bylaw provision that states that no member of the same family may apply for more than one trading bay in one area is unfair.

“Under the new law, one of us will have to stand down and will probably have to go trade in Claremont,” he says, frowning.

Ebden says that Chabaan will most likely be sidelined by the city, and this will result in increased rents and stricter regulation of goods.

“Because the trading has become very much a mass production culture, if something sells well then people often imitate it,” Ebden says.

“Luckily we are the only shop that sells Rasta goods. But I don’t know how they will work out who gets to keep selling and who has to leave. It’s not like they know who was here first.

“It’s troubling that the city is doing this as winter approaches because trading is very much a summer-oriented business,” he says.

“Many traders make money during the summer to live on until the next summer,” he adds.

“It’s a means of survival.”


~ by Matt Medved on May 9, 2007.

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