Traders at a Cape Flats mall on Monday said “rent must fall” and closed more than 30 shops, bringing the usually bustling business hub to standstill for a few hours.
They were supporting one of their fellow traders, Munir Hoosain, 38, at the Station Plaza mall in Mitchells’ Plain, who was being evicted after owing their landlord more than half a million rand in rent.
The owner of the centre, Mr Osman of Bordiss Properties, says Hoosain, who owns an electronics shop, was evicted by the Sheriff of the Court after being given two years to pay back the money and failing.
Osman accused Hoosain of “inciting” other traders to rally against management.
Businesses closed their shops and demonstrated around with posters, shouting: “Rent must fall.”
There were fears that the protest might turn violent after some people, believed to be traders, threatened “to throw out shop windows”, but this did not materialise.
Hoosain claims the centre has become a white elephant that generated little or no profit to foot the huge rent bill.
He and his wife, Sumaya Shide Hoosain, 48, say they have to pay R47 000 rent per month.
The couple admits being in arrears of over R500 000.
“I have been trading for 23 years and what profits we make, we give to them,” Hoosain claims.
“Mr Osman, the owner, we demand that rent must fall, that tax returns must fall.
“People can’t feed their families because the rent is too high.”
Sumaya adds that the rent increases every year by 10 percent: “They gave us an eviction notice, we must be out by 12pm (yesterday) and that they will be closing us.
“The Sheriff was even at our shop last week.
“We think we are in arrears of between R500 000 and a million rand.”
Another trader, Midn Gee, who runs an appliance shop, claims management was “doing nothing about rampant theft” in the mall.
“I pay R16 000 a month for rent and when there are break-ins, the thieves come through the ceiling, and the owner says we must fix it ourselves,” he says.
“We have lost R20 000 worth of merchandise – rent must fall.”
But Osman says Hoosain was given enough chances, and has called on other traders with grievances to come and see him.
“A certain individual was evicted today by the Sheriff of the court because he was in arrears and he makes up 25 percent of the slow payers,” Osman tells the Daily Voice.
“What he did (yesterday) was to bring a force of tenants together and they have loyalty to him.”
He said claims that tenants were being unfairly charged high rent was unfounded.
“We just signed 16 new leases and we align rental with what the turnover (of the shop) is and what they sell, and if they have a problem they should come and see me,” said Osman.
“The building is a secure property and our rental is lower than anywhere else.
“Even last week we gave the individual another chance but he never met with us.”
Kenny Brinkhuis of the United Hawker’s Forum explains that traders need to understand the mall space is rented to formal traders who are provided with various services, hence the “high” rent, as opposed to informal traders.
“The complex gets locked, there is security, water, electricity and it is a secure venue and comfortable place for customers,” he adds.