IY’s trading treasure

Some 18 months ago, business owners operating from containers in Imizamo Yethu were asked to relocate as part of the formal housing project in the settlement.

The request by the City of Cape Town was hardly met with enthusiasm, as these businesses were well known to local residents, and as the maxim goes, “location, location, location” was everything to the traders.

In order to alleviate what was becoming a tense situation, the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA), members of the Imizamo Yethu housing steering committee and ward councillor Roberto Quintas began a series of engagements with the business owners.

Albeit still sceptical, the traders agreed to relocate to a portion of land adjacent to the Main Road clinic. Today this hub, formally known as the Unique Business Park, is thriving, with 25 containers offering everything from hairdressing services to hardware materials housed within the space.

From 6am to 6.30pm, seven days a week, the traders are hard at work, readying their wares in anticipation of new customers.

The business node, now electrified by the City, has also received perimeter fencing and been given an aesthetically-pleasing touch thanks to pottery donations from the Clay Cafe.

Two local residents, Jenny Nelson and Lindy Kokhuis, have pitched in to assist the traders get the hub up and running.

The business park is certainly a hive of activity. Vehicles transporting furniture come and go throughout the day, while the sound of angle-grinders working feverishly on wood and metals are another constant.

In addition, the traders, who comprise South Africans as well as business owners from across the African diaspora, have formalised into the Unique Business Park Traders’ Association.

Association secretary Sunday Abejide is proud of what has been achieved in a relatively short space of time.

“In the beginning, access (to the park) was poor because they were working on the road. When we came here, we thought it was going to kill our businesses. It was very sandy and there was no electricity, so we really started feeling the pressure,” Mr Abejide said.

“But we are happy now. It’s good that we are all in the same place, so that the customers know where to come. We are also seeing more tourists coming here when they take the tours.”

Treasurer Mike Eswell agreed that more residents were now familiar with the traders’ new location. “When we started here people didn’t know where to find us, but they do now. It’s a good thing.”

Mr Abejide said traders now believed the future would be bright, and expected business to grow steadily in the coming months.

The Unique Business Park Traders’ Association pays special attention to ensuring the area is kept clean at all times, although members concede this is a challenge at times, with so much activity taking place.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas acknowledged that by no means was the hub the finished product, but he was nevertheless delighted with the progress that had been made.

“The business park has become a one-stop shopping environment. It shows the resilience of the community in creating opportunities for themselves.

“Here we have a hardware, hairdresser, appliance store, a second-hand goods store, furniture, welding services, upholstering and more, all in one space,” he said.

“When the City requested the traders relocate, we knew we had to take a caring approach. We didn’t want to simply impound containers, we wanted to negotiate.

“We had this land available, and we were able to reach a compromise.”

Mr Quintas said he hoped an outlet serving African and traditional township fare could be included in the tenant list at some point, as this would be a good representation of the ethnicity of the tenants.

Now that the traders’ association had formed a constituted body, the City will be seeking to formalise a memorandum of understanding with its members.

“There is a tenant waiting list, so the MOU will stipulate aspects such as terms of use, for example. It is quite a small area, so we don’t want to impact on green spaces. However, the business park is in a way a pilot project, as I would like to see three of four such business nodes included in the formal housing project in the future.”