Informal traders in Mpumalanga demand that by-laws be reviewed

Informal traders in Mpumalanga are calling on the government to amend by-laws that make it difficult for them to trade. This is after the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development and Tourism in conjunction with the national Department of Small Business Development held an Informal Economy Indaba in Middelburg.

The high unemployment rate in the country has forced some citizens to venture into the informal trade sector. Some say they considered this option after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, the number of informal traders is growing in some parts of the country. Others often find themselves on the wrong side of the law due to strict by-laws.

The Informal Economy Indaba was held to discuss such challenges. Among those who attended the event is 34-year-old- Bhuti Mahlangu, who started an internet cafe business in Emalahleni two years ago.

“I started the internet cafe as soon as the end of my contract at work because it was a fixed-term contract. When it ended I decided that I cannot just stay at home and I must open a business while I’m looking for a job. The problem currently is that we have got places that we want to occupy but when we apply to the municipality we are told that those places are full. But those places just have grass and it is not attended to and that is the challenge.”

The Chairperson of Bumbanani Bahlali Organisation, Thapelo Mnisi says lack of access to funding also remains a major problem for them.

“We would like the MEC to assist us to make sure that our organisations are recognised because at the end of the day we are the basis on which the communities are expected to get assistance. You will find that the municipality is not acknowledging our efforts as a movement for our people. We would like the MEC to engage with SEDA and SEFA to make sure that there are ways in which the process of funding is fast-tracked. Because at the end of the day we wait for months and if not a year or two to get feedback.”

The MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Vusi Mkhatshwa has promised the informal traders that the department will soon attend to the issues they have raised.

“This process will take us to a situation where we develop a provincial policy, so for now we are interacting with the sector, but also municipalities because they are also responsible for by-laws. They become very much important so that we go back and review if needs be their by-laws so that they are more progressive and developmental in nature. So, that they do not frustrate our informal traders in different areas. So, I think in such engagement we will be able to find resolutions.”

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago- the City of Mbombela Municipality issued a letter instructing some street vendors operating in Kabokweni near White River to vacate the pavement. The municipality also threatened to approach the courts to obtain a court order against those who would refuse to vacate.

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