Millions spent and 7 years later hawkers still sit without stalls

Only 60 of 320 stalls were built yet Mbhashe municipality paid the contractor

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In 2015 Mbhashe Local Municipality put out a tender for 320 hawkers’ stalls to be built in three towns. Seven years later only 60 have been built and R16-million has been spent, according to councillors. Photos: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • Mbhashe Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape paid R16-million to build 320 stalls for hawkers in three towns according to councillors, but only 60 were built in one town.
  • Now the municipality is confiscating hawkers’ wares and refusing them permits, saying they cannot sell from the pavement.
  • The municipality refuses to give any details about the contractor or the tender, quoting the POPI Act and claiming it is sub judice, which is a misapplication of the law.

Mbhashe Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape refuses to name the construction company it paid R16-million, according to councillors, to build 320 stalls for hawkers in three towns. Only 60 stalls were built, in Dutywa, less than a fifth of what it was supposed to deliver. No stalls were built in Xhorha (Elliotdale) or Willowvale.

Now hawkers in Dutywa are up in arms because the municipality is refusing to renew their permits. It says they are prohibited from trading from the pavement. Yet it has failed to build them the promised stalls.

Dutywa Hawkers Steering Committee Secretary Mpumelelo Nogada said the municipality has no right to stop hawkers selling along the N2, unless it can provide an alternative proper space. He said even some of the few stalls that were built have not been officially handed over to any hawkers.

Three ANC ward councillors, all of whom refused to be named, told GroundUp the matter has never gone to court. They said the contractor abandoned the site in 2019 after it was paid in full, an amount of R16-million.

UDM chief whip in the municipality, Usivile Mboneli, said the tender was R16-million for 320 hawker stalls and the contractor was paid in full. He said this was flagged by the Auditor General.

He named the contractor as Loyiso Engineers. “He defends himself by saying that he delivered the stalls and invoices are a proof of that,” said Mboneli.

“This is a very sad situation because the lawyers are also going to take more money from the municipality.”

We could not reach Loyiso Engineers for comment.

Mbhashe Local Municipality spokesperson Nomakhulu Dingane refused to name the contractor, saying this was due to the POPI Act. She refused to give any details, claiming the matter is sub judice (before a court). She confirmed that the matter is not yet in court, but lawyers have been briefed.

But the POPI Act contains no provisions preventing the municipality from disclosing the names of contractors. Nor does the matter being sub judice prevent the contractor being named or their contact details being provided.

A review by the municipality of its 2016 Integrated Development Plan gives a budget of R18-million for hawker stalls in Dutywa, R3.77-million for Xhorha and R1.2-million for Willowavale. It also reflects R7-million spent by 2017 on this. The project was funded by a Municipal Infrastructure Grant starting in 2014/15.

Hawkers in Dutywa complained that law enforcement had confiscated their wares. They said they were denied permits but they are determined to stay put.

Siyabonga Menani, who sells buckets and dustbins, said that twice in 2021 his wares were taken and he did not have the R500 the municipality demanded for their release. He tried selling again in 2022. He borrowed money from friends and managed to buy stock, but his goods were once again confiscated.

Hawkers’ steering committee member Zoliswa Ndlebe said the municipality “must give us our stores or let us sell where we want”.

“They keep on confiscating our items. It is enough … We will move from the N2, but only once all hawkers stalls are built,” she said.

Hawkers selling near the N2 in Dutywa say they will only leave once the municipality hands over the promised stalls to them.

TOPICS:  Economy Local government

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