“It seems the government has seriously forgotten about Diepsloot,” Fish-and-Chip shop owner Samuel Seema told Gauteng Premier David Makhura at a meeting of around 200 small business owners and residents on Tuesday.
Makhura and MEC for Transport Jacob Mamabolo were at the Diepsloot Youth Center to discuss and talk about the township’s new economic development bill.
But many in the crowd expressed anger at Makhura and Mamabolo, and frustration at the failure of basic services that makes it difficult to operate a business in Diepsloot.
The new law will do nothing if Diepsloot remains squalid, crime-infested and underserved, small and micro business owners have told the Prime Minister.
“I’ve stayed in a cabin here for 23 years,” Seema said. “We see all the development taking place in the surrounding areas, but not in Diepsloot. We cannot run a business in such a community.
He said crime drives business out of Diepsloot.
“It’s hard to turn any corner in Diepsloot without running into trash. It has become a norm here,” said Sandile Shoba. He sells chicken braai and meat.
“Nobody wants to buy food near a smelly store,” Patrick Madonsela, a small business owner from Extension 6, told Makhura.
“Our biggest problem is the quality of the services provided to Diepsloot. This place is very dirty and takes business away from us, uncollected waste and poor water infrastructure are central issues,” he said.
Vuyelwa Dube has been running a fast food business in Extension 2 since 2014. She said, “This place smells bad and there are flies everywhere.” She said the city of Johannesburg had left rubbish to pile up for weeks. “We need a lasting solution because even the nearby liquor store is being hit hard by this dumping.”
“Our leaders are failing us miserably when it comes to road infrastructure,” Gilbert Chikopo, a local contractor in the construction industry, told Prime Minister.
He said the roads in sections of Extension 8 were in a terrible state.
Residents also lambasted MEC Mamabolo for the slow progress of the K46 road project on William Nicol Drive. The road was due to be completed in 2017.
Electricity is yet another business crippling problem.
“There is also the problem of electricity,” Chikopo said. “You can’t run a food business, for example, with recurrent power cuts… In expansion 8, our transformer blew up two months ago and Eskom promised to come, but nothing.”
“The government’s incompetence is also setting us back. Address that!” Chikopo told Makhura.
Business owners also said it was impossible to run businesses from the sidewalks of Diepsloot. They want stalls and other commercial infrastructure to be built near the various taxi ranks.
In his speech, Makhura said the new bill was “first-of-its-kind legislation to focus strictly on SMEs”.
He said the bill, which he will sign next April, will remove regulations that “make it difficult for businesses in the township.”
” We have seen it. Where informal traders are harassed as they try to make a living. So the laws that criminalized small businesses will now be replaced by one law,” Makhura told traders.
“We urge young people to start businesses and create jobs. Not everyone should wait for the government. We know that if township businesses are given the right support, they can generate a lot of revenue. We want Diepsloot to be a place of opportunity,” Makhura said.
“If you have a business and need space, come see us. We can help you. Because some people come to us and say they don’t need money but land to develop their businesses… Our aim is also to support manufacturing in the townships,” Makhura said.
He urged local businesses to comply, pay taxes, obey the law and said health inspections were planned.
Residents said that in implementing the law, Makhura must take into account the reality on the ground.
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