By Masilo Malakwane
QWAQWA – There was total chaos as Setsing Plaza on Thursday last week as dozens of tenants in the form of retail outlets protested what they called ‘unprecedented interruption of business’ after being evicted from the shopping complex.
The landlord, escorted by members of the Saps locked up the shops while the sheriff of the court seized equipment, stock and fittings to cover for non-payment of rent.
Shoppers were also left stunned, wondering if they would be compensated for their lay-byes.
According to Yesmin Amla, who runs a clothing store popularly known as Ha-Malome, the seizure of the traders’ property was a culmination of notices they were served with in March this year regarding the settlement of outstanding rental fees.
“Honestly our businesses have suffered severely due to the QwaQwa cut off of both water supply and power, and then the covid-19 lockdown. We did raise these challenges with the previous Centre Manager.
“We have never had rental disputes initially with Centre Management before. But this year, things were getting worse.”
Amla’s business has been operating at Setsing for almost 40 years, and seeing his belongings attached was a bitter pill to swallow.
In his defence, Centre Manager Patrick Chauke insisted that Setsing plaza had exercised its rights over its commercial tenants’ to recoup outstanding rent.
“We did request all our tenants who are in arrears to settle their outstanding amounts. We are battling a huge backlog in outstanding rental payments as most shops have not settled their debts. So today we managed to close down about six shops as a result of the rental dispute. But we are open to negotiating a settlement plan with them,” said Chauke.
Forty-year old Martha Nkabinde Martha of Paballong has worked at Ha-Malome clothing store for about 14 years. This is what she had to say: “It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to provide for her family anymore. It all happened so suddenly. I was my family’s bread winner.”
This is not the first time Setsing gets entangled in a tiff with local traders. Earlier this year, disgruntled hawkers operating inside the center disrupted the commencement of phase one facelift works, demanding to be part of the newly revamped center.