The Joe Slovo market has been accused of selling drugs and stolen goods, but traders say they’re just trying to make an honest living.
The informal market is on the side of Freedom Way, on City-owned land, between Phoenix and Joe Slovo.
According to Ursula Marshall, of the Phoenix Ratepayers’ Association, problems at the market stretch back to the time Dr Joy McCarthy was the Ward 4 councillor.
“We have engaged with the previous councillors, sending mails back and forth to get this problem sorted,” she said.
“The problem is not the fact that people are selling goods and trying to make a living for themselves. The problem is that there is a lot of drugs being traded there and it is done out in the open.”
But the police say that if drugs were being sold at the market, no one had laid any formal charges about it.
“There hasn’t been any information of this nature received as yet,” said Milnerton SAPS spokesperson Captain Nopaya Madyibi.
City law enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said they hadn’t had any complaints about the market for the past six months.
However, Noxolo Mayeki, of the Joe Slovo Crisis and Residents’ Development Committee, said many in the community suspected the market fenced stolen goods from drug addicts.
“Besides the fact that they buy stolen items, when their daily trade is done, they leave the place in a dirty state,” she said.
“We have a big problem with many of the things that happen at that market, but if we do something, we might be labelled as xenophobic, and that is not the case.”
Ms Mayeki said the committee regularly urged the traders not to buy stolen goods, but it had battled for three years to sort out the issues at the market and it wanted the City and the councillor to act.
Ward 4 councillor, Wandisile Ngeyi, said he knew about the allegations and would set up a meeting with all those affected to find a solution.
“The traders, on their side, are saying that they are dealing with the matter of crime decisively. But I think the meeting can materialise only early next year as many leaders are on holiday around the country,” said Mr Ngeyi.
Setty Mangadza, 61, has been selling fruit and vegetables at the market for six years and is also on its traders’ committee.
“Selling my fruit and veg here at the market helps me pay for my rent and put food on the table. We would love the assistance of the City and the councillor to help formalise this market and have better infrastructure like fencing and tarring,” said Ms Mangadza.
The committee, she said, had zero tolerance for illegal trading and crime, and traders were rule-bound not to buy suspected stolen goods.
The committee also paid someone to clean the area twice a week.
Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, said the market had been on the City-owned site for several years.
“The City is in discussion with the traders’ committee who are keen to formalise this market into a permanent trading space. A meeting has been scheduled with ward councillor Mlulami Ngeyi to discuss a trading plan for this space, among a number of other issues,” said Ms Little.
If the traders are relocated to another more formal spot, Ms Marshall said, the current site could not be allowed to simply stand empty because people would soon start occupying it and many of the problems there now would start over again.