On June the 4th I attended the monthly Mayoral regeneration program concerning the Mitchells Plain Town Centre Action Coordinating {ACT} meeting which was held at the Mitchells Plain Police Station.

After 2 hours of listening to the standard complaints, I went on a walk-about with some traders to verify the grievances. Although the Council recently spent R30 million on upgrading the Town Centre, human behaviour remains the main problem. The 80 000 commuters who use the interchange on a daily basis have to circumvent the gauntlet with drug addicts who look to steal anything, while drunk vagrants gather and sleep near the library.

Locals remain reluctant to clean-up after themselves although bins are available. Monies spent on paving and shelters are unappreciated. When it rains and the wind blows, traders complain that their products are soaked as the roof does not extend far enough. Illegal traders operate with impunity while law enforcement argues with city officials about by-laws. While everyone struggles to eke out a living, the profundities of the grievances remain obvious. Reality suggests that some parts of our society are able to identify the value of responsible behaviour and others are able but unwilling to comply. In my assessment, the Town Centre needs a “baas” with a law enforcement approach.

After a year of attending ACT meetings I have concluded that some traders regard themselves as constitutional and municipal by-law experts. Yet, the same people are unable to recognize their responsibility towards each other. Those who complain about the absence of major tenants are the same person who cannot understand why, obstructing the entrance of the anchor tenant is wrong.

While shops are rented to Chinese and Somali’s who share their trading space with Pakistani’s and Bangladeshi’s, locals’ continue to trade in the rain. This makes the Town Centre a cultural twilight zone. Foreigners who can barely speak Afrikaans and English have developed communalism. Locals that have been trading in the Town Centre for 30 yrs remain divided and therefore do not fully benefit from the ratepayers investment. Building owners who remain absent rent-collectors have gained.

Since the City plans to spend a third of its budget {R10 billion} directly on the poor, how does one calculate “value outcome” if the cycle of poverty continuously reconfigures itself? As a society we need to begin the process of cogently managing the obvious but painful issues. This includes the hard reality that there are those amongst us who are accustomed to receiving while others are compelled through taxation to continue paying. While we sympathise with the plight of the penurious trader, one is left wondering, what else must ratepayers do to ensure that local traders become self-sustaining?

In the end, life is not without irony, in many ways the MP Town Centre is a metaphor for what develops in the rest of Cape Town and this country. If war torn Somali refugees are able to uplift each other and become sustainable within a short period of time, what is the problem with locals? Foreigners have expeditiously learnt the value of conciliation and collectivism. Although local traders observe this behaviour on a daily basis, why are they reluctant to overcome their own idiosyncrasies?

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress