Upgrade overdue

Traders at the kiosks on the Grand Parade say that an upgrade of the area is long overdue, and they are hopeful that the City of Cape Town will follow through with plans which have been promised for many years.

This was after City of Cape Town officials met with the chairperson of the Grand Parade Kiosk Traders’ Forum, Abdullah Hendricks, and his family, to discuss the proposed upgrades.

According to a City press release, the more than R5 million upgrade being undertaken will ensure that the Grand Parade becomes a hive of activity for locals and visitors to the city.

The work on the parade is set to start in February next year, outside the traders’ busy season, and should be completed by June 2019.

The plan is to upgrade the trading kiosks to fit-in with the overall aesthetic of the newly revamped precinct. The row of small kiosks facing the parade will be demolished and those closest to Plein Street will be refurbished.

The back of the existing kiosk’s service yards will be converted into small kiosk spaces to accommodate the existing traders who are currently trading from the row that will be demolished. The existing ablution facilities will be revamped and internal alterations will be made to one of the kiosks, on the first-floor, to accommodate Law Enforcement on the Grand Parade, which will improve policing and security.

The City’s new Mayco member for assets and facilities management, James Vos, said the Grand Parade was one of the City’s most iconic heritage sites and its upgrade, together with the major upgrade of the City Hall, would increase the precinct’s attraction as an events venue and tourist attraction.

During an inspection, it was found that the kiosk buildings did not meet the necessary safety standards and fire regulations. The buildings therefore either needed to be demolished or refurbished to a compliant standard.

“Our commitment is to create a safe space for residents and visitors to this iconic public venue. We want locals and visitors to stop-over at the Grand Parade more often, and not just once a year for the festive lights event. Being located close to the various modes of public makes the venue accessible to residents from across the city,” said Mr Vos.

Mr Hendricks, who has been trading in the kiosks on the Parade for almost 40 years, said the upgrade was needed, but he hoped that this time, the City would follow through with the plans. He said plans to upgrade the Grand Parade had been going on for years, and last year, the City of Cape Town issued them with an eviction notice as they wanted to revamp the facility. This was contested by the traders with the help of the Development Action Group and the Legal Resource Centre. “We were supposed to be out by March because they wanted to renovate, but they didn’t have a plan, so we stopped the evictions. We then met with the then Mayco member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond, and we came up with new ideas, and they listened to us. The City’s project management team is now negotiating with us and we now have a more civilised relationship.”

He said for the 2010 World Cup, the City had given the Parade a quick facelift.

“We have been promised many upgrades over the years. The City owes us this. We’ve been trading in weird conditions. He said when the City met with traders, he allowed everyone to give ideas and raise their objections.

“At the end of the day, I’m fighting for my livelihood. Business has deteriorated over the years because of the conditions on the Parade. This place has been neglected for over 30 years. We also want the City to be considerate with the rent and give us a chance for our businesses to recoup after the upgrade.”

Another trader, who only wanted to be identified as Essop, said it was about time the space was upgraded. “I’ve been on the Parade since a baby in a box. It was due for as long as I am here. The traders have been here for generations – my mom has now passed on and she was here for 60 years.”

She said most of the traders at the kiosks sold food, but the Parade was very unappealing. “People loiter here, and there’s many other things happening here that makes it unsavoury. People don’t even want to walk through here.”

Zaid Davids, who trades at one of the kiosks which will be demolished, said while they are happy where they were now, they weren’t happy with the conditions they had to work under. “Something needs to be done. The situation is out of control.”

He said they would be relocated to the area closest to Plein Street before the kiosks were demolished. “It’s just a matter of us moving over. There will be Law Enforcement on the first floor so it will be more secure. At the end of the day we needed to compromise because we want the upgrade.”

He appealed to the City to allow the traders to be part of the plan. “Lots of people will be affected. There were many plans but nothing happened so far. People’s livelihood are at stake, but we are happy that we now have a voice, and that they are listening to us too.”

Mr Vos said: “I am confident that the proposed upgrade of the Grand Parade, together with the recent revamp of the City Hall will continue to position this iconic precinct as an ideal events venue, a tourist attraction and of course economic opportunities area for some of our most vulnerable residents. The recent installation of the Madiba statue, on the balcony of the City Hall will in itself attract locals and visitors to the city. Therefore, it is vital that the upgrade of the Grand Parade goes full-steam ahead to remain a premier attraction.”

Meanwhile, the informal traders on the other side of the kiosks have little information on what will happen to them when the upgrades at the kiosks start. Natasha Naicker of the Grand Parade United Traders’ Association, who is also an informal trader, said the City has not liaised with them about what will happen once the upgrades at the kiosks take place.

“All we know is that they want to move us to the other side of the Parade. I don’t know if our customers are going to walk that far just to buy from us. We are unhappy, but what can we do? We have to go.”

Asked about the upgrades of the ablutions, she said: “They can upgrade all they want, but if it’s not managed properly and not cleaned properly, what is the point?”

Questions to the City about the future of the informal traders went unanswered.

Ms Naicker said while they welcomed the upgrade, the authorities needed to get crime and grime on the Parade under control first.