By Zubeida Jaffer
On the shores of Muizenberg beach, a small trader is waging a Herculean battle with the City of Cape Town.
After five years of trading, Lucille and Quinton Abrams, owners of the mobile business, The Pancake, were denied a permit and subsequently lost their appeal recently. They have taken the unprecedented step of taking the matter to the Western Cape High Court.
At the same time, the legal team will bring an interdict to have the couple returned to their site pending the outcome of the review. “Selling pancakes and coffee on the beach was my dream,” said Quinton Abrams. “My dream has been taken away from me.”
The two explained that they were granted a permit in December 2018 valid until October 2021. This was later extended to March 2023 and then to June 2023. They were then given an unsigned letter stating that they were not successful. No reasons were given.
At that stage, the local DA councilor for Muizenberg, Amy Kuhl said she had expedited the matter to the mayor’s office. “We are both facing a bureaucracy,” she said and was unclear what could be done to help the couple.
She confirmed that she had not formally met with the couple or offer help. The couple took the matter on appeal and were pushed around for months without income and without any certainty.
Finally, early in November they received notification that their appeal was denied. “This was despite the fact that we live in Muizenberg and that 500 locals signed a petition supporting us,” said Lucille Abrams. “The site had been allocated to an ice-cream vendor whose sales will be seasonal while we utilize the site all year round,” she said.
Before losing their appeal, they became aware of traders on other beachfronts experiencing similar problems. A city councilor by the name of Karl Bodin of the Cape Independence Party (Capeexit) became involved in helping three traders prompting the Abrams couple to turn to him for help.
Councilor Bodin intervened on behalf of Frank and Phyllis Dickman who had traded at Blouberg for 15 years. “The Dickmans were shocked to discover that apart from now not being able to legally trade, no reason for this decision was given,” said Karl Bodin.
He explained that City By-laws make provision for new Applicants to score higher than long-standing Traders. “We know that the Dickmans have been pillars of the Blouberg community and are much loved. I helped them retain their site,” he said.
Subsequently it came to his attention that Mr and Mrs Costa Stanissis had submitted 5 applications since July 2023 and each one was ignored. The same happened to Mr Gilbert Kasendwe who was trading on the beachfront for 20 years. “I have ensured that fairness prevails. “Their applications were approved, and they are back on their sites.”
He will help the Abrams family to take the matter to court to challenge their shoddy treatment over a long period of time. “In the case of The Pancake, the City issued a permit for another trader knowing that this matter was on appeal,” said Bodin. “You cannot do that, and it is just heartless.”
The only thing that provides some explanation of what they have endured is a letter sent to them two years ago. The letter penned by Peter Corbett, the then Muizenberg Improvement District (MID) chairperson, accuses them of selling coffee in competition with several adjacent formal businesses. “In addition, your main product is pancakes which directly competes with a business across the road. Those businesses are legitimately complaining and are asking the MID to ensure compliance with the By Law in question.”
He further informs them that they were granted their permit incorrectly and that MID would strongly request the Council “to completely revoke your trading license.”
This is not the view of the current chairperson of MID, Simon Roberts. He supports the reinstatement of The Pancake’s license.
Muizenberg resident and film maker, Bridget Thompson said she would have thought that the DA Councilor representing the community would have strongly supported efforts by this family to be self-supporting. “There is not one business along this beach front that is owned by a person of colour and yet so much effort has gone into excluding a small trader that provides a service to hundreds of people. There is something here that does not make sense,” she said. “Do the shops have more rights than the small traders? “Surely we should have the right to buy coffee at a better price at the beach?”
Resident Kate Kvalsvig has sent copious communications to the mayor and the local DA councilor with no luck. “I was just told due process has been followed.” “We would expect our councilor to have helped Lucille and Quinton Abrams. Why are these people who are making an honest living being given such a hard time. It is just not fair.”
Sunday, 19 November 2023.