THE East London central business district is set for a major facelift.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dispatch on the metro’s priorities this year, mayor Zukiswa Ncitha revealed she was going to table a plan in which “ideally” all the city’s hawkers doing business along Oxford Street would be centralised in one place “just as in other cities”.
“When you come to town you are never sure which one is Oxford Street. That’s how bad things are.
“You end up finding yourself nearing the beachfront and you ask yourself where is the town’s main street.
“It’s not easy to identify Oxford Street as we used to do,” she said.
The mayor said she had already tabled a proposal to the metro’s local economic development department.
“The first step that I proposed to LED was to have a meeting with all the Oxford street hawkers because (that’s the) starting point,” she said.
Two possible spots have already been identified, one being Argyle Street between Jet Stores and Foschini.
The other is near the old OK store.
“We would like to centralise them (hawkers) like in other towns.
“But we won’t remove them far from their customers.
“They will remain close to the shoppers but instead use the side streets that lead off Oxford,” she said.
This is aimed at finding a long-term solution to Oxford Street’s congestion which is linked to the high crime rate in the city.
Ncitha said a recent public safety report pointed to escalating crime levels in the CBD, as a result of the congestion.
“I (on behalf of BCM) had a meeting with police, (which) raised the issue of rising crime statistics (within the CBD). Criminals use these stalls to hide,” she said.
Once hawkers agree to move to a central point, Ncitha said all the shops along Oxford street would be painted in one colour, to ensure that the street stood out and returned to its former glory.
“Oxford Street deserves a distinct colour. The municipality will be responsible for that so that all the landlords abide by the rule which will determine the official colour of Oxford Street.
“The plan is to use local youths to do this project.
“We will ask the council to give us the go-ahead to buy our own paint and use young people to paint the whole street and then pay them a stipend,” she said.
The plan is also to rid the city centre of illegal shebeens, and free the legal ones from drug peddlers.
The mayor said police had raised concerns about the mushrooming of illegal shebeens in the CBD, especially in upper Oxford Street.
“Behind most of the illegal liquor businesses are drug dens,” Ncitha said.
“The plan is once you clear the streets, you then enforce the law in these shebeens, with the help of South African police services and the city’s law enforcement agencies.
“That’s the first leg of the facelift – clearing the city and making it friendly for everyone,” she said.
Ncitha said it would not be wise to discuss details of the plan, as the Metro first had to get a buy-in from the affected people.
“The matter is still going to Council, and once Council gives its input and a go-ahead, the plan would then be put into action.
“It won’t be wise to give further details because the affected community has not been consulted yet,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org