Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Badih Chabaan throws in the towel

By Ilhaam Hoosain
25 December 2007


Months of the Greenmarket Square power struggle between the City of Cape Town and Badih Chabaan has ended as Chabaan throws in the towel.

He was due to tell informal traders on Monday that he is giving up his challenge to the City's cancellation of his lease in June.

In addition he will abandon his defence of the traders, whom he believes will lose out in the city's revamp of the square from March.

Chaaban told the Cape Argus that although he believed the city had behaved unlawfully towards him and the traders, the protracted battle had become too costly to wage any longer.

"I see myself as a victor in surrender. I see it has having lost the battle, not the war, against the DA's fascist style of government. I'm not going to fight the system if the system is bigger than me," he said.

As a councillor, he was bound to abide by the city's decisions, even if he did not agree with them.

"It's unfortunate. The city wins. I lose. One must accept defeat in the same way you celebrate victory."

Chaaban said that in the New Year, he would spend more time on the work of his political party, the National Peoples Party (NPP).

On December 1, when the city took control of the square, Chaaban refused to give up his presence there and continued to meet traders and collect a daily rental from as many as 130 of 230 traders.

At least five of his rent collectors, some of whom also trade on the square, faced arrest by Metro Police two weeks ago for illegally collecting money.

Chaaban had promised traders reduced uniform trading fees of R50 a day to compete with the city's monthly fee of R400.

He believes the traders will get the short end of the stick once the city begins its upgrade of the square.

"Rather than have the courage of their convictions and testing the validity of their so-called cancellation of the lease of Greenmarket Square by issuing a summons for my eviction, the city has targeted the traders, who are relatively defenceless," he said.

The city council decided in June to cancel the lease to allow it to upgrade the square and enforce its new informal trading bylaw at several trading areas across the metropole.

Simon Grindrod, the city mayoral committee member for economic development said that if Chaaban planned to do as he had said, he was pleased that it would allow informal traders on Greenmarket Square to take full advantage of the support available to them from the city.

Conservative estimates from the city put the value of the informal trading sector across the metropole at R1-billion a year.

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