AEC: Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre Hawkers Fight Forced Relocation

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement
Tuesday July 29, 2008 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mitchell’s Plain – After participating in the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign’s recent General Meeting and marching in the 24 July March against Housing Privatization, the Mitchell’s Plain Concerned Hawkers and Traders is set to join the AEC. Like the Gatesville Hawkers and the informal traders of Gugulethu, the traders of the Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre face forced removal by city officials and well-connected business people, a conflict that once again pits the nation’s first economy against the informal sector.

The struggle that gave rise to this new organization began on 13 March 2008, when SAPS and Metro Police, backed by the Army and the Dog Unit, raided this bustling town centre on the Cape Flats, cracking down, not on criminal activity, but the dozens of men and women who make their living selling everything from fruits and vegetables to cigarettes and children’s clothes. Without warning, police began breaking down hawkers’ stalls and removing goods. It was only by resisting these evictions that the hawkers were able to prevent their relocation from the sides of the Town Centre’s bustling passage ways to an isolated area on the centre’s outskirts.

It was only later, after rounds of community meetings and inquiries, that the hawkers learned that their forced relocation had been requested by the United Hawkers Forum, a previously unheard of organization that operated without a public participation or a constitution, but held a seat on the Town Centre Steering Committee. The United Hawkers Forum is chaired by Mr. Kenny Brinkhuis, who Mieshka Cassiem of Lenteguer contends is a local business owner, not an informal trader.

Further investigations revealed that the Steering Committee had secured a R304 million grant from the National Government to upgrade the Town Centre as a Targeted Improvement District. “They have presented proposals as if everyone was involved in it, even though there was no participation,” said Cassiem. Since 1996, more than R 1 million has been allocated to the Steering Committee but with no information to the hawkers on how these funds have been spent.

Since 1996, more than R 1 million has been allocated to the Steering Committee but with no information on how it has been spent. “If they had involved us from the start, we would have been in a much better situation,” offered Ishmael Isaacs, President of the Concerned Hawkers and Traders. Cape Town City Council’s ombudsman, Malcolm Fritz is currently investigating the matter.

Established on 3 July 2008, the Mitchell’s Plain Concerned Hawkers and Traders seeks to prevent further evictions and ensure that the hawkers can determine where they will trade. This association regularly informs traders about their rights under City By-Laws as well as about the actions of the Town Centre’s Steering Committee. It has also secured legal assistance to assure that future development plans are not made through unrepresentative bodies. As a result, the hawkers have been able to remain in their stalls and have halted the allocation of TID funding pending further investigation.

In spite of these gains, the hawkers now face a renewed effort to relocate them, this time by municipal authorities. In the 17 June 2008 edition of the Cape Times, city officials put forward a notice of intention to amend the existing demarcation regulations for hawkers in Mitchell’s Plain Central Business District. These new rules are described as “part of the Council’s vision of upgrading the CBD,” by making the area within the Mitchell’s Plain CBD a prohibited area for informal trading, with the exception of certain isolated informal trading sites.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign condemns the efforts of government officials and well-to-do businesses to displace these hawkers, who provide their poor neighbors with much-needed goods and services. The AEC will continue to stand in solidarity with them, whether the forced removals they face are at home or at work.

For more information, please contact

Ian Paige 073 912 6571
Mieshka Cassiem 073 128 6657

For more, please visit the website of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign at: