SABC News - City of Joburg trading laws too restrictive:Tuesday 29 September 2015

City of Joburg trading laws too restrictive

Tuesday 29 September 2015 20:02

Tshepo Phagane

Streets vendors won a case in the Constitutional Court which allowed them to return to the streets run their trade. (SABC)

The City of Johannesburg's street trading regulations are restrictive, inconsistent and enforcement-oriented rather than developmental or enabling. That's the conclusion of a research report into the experiences of informal traders in the Jo'burg CBD.

Traders have also accused the city of violating a Constitutional Court order prohibiting it from interfering with their rights to trade.

The research report by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute comes in the wake of the City's Operation Clean Sweep in 2013 in which 8000 informal traders were evicted from the inner city streets.

Streets traders won a landmark case in the Constitutional Court which ordered that they be allowed to return to the streets to ply their trade.

Author of the report, Dennis Webster says the City's measures used to manage trading such as smart cards and lease agreements are inconsistent.

"For instance on the lease agreements traders pay rent in order to secure a trading site but what we found during the research is that there are vast gaps between traders who are paying rent and traders who are aware of actually having a lease agreement at all. Most traders we spoke to pay rent on a monthly basis to secure a trading site but many are unaware of ever signing a lease agreement that sets that rent out. There are also similar irregularities with the smart cards. These range from the smart cards that were confiscated during Operation Clean Sweep by the JMPD and never returned to traders to confiscation that still happen on a daily basis."

They say despite a Constitutional Court order barring the city from interfering with their rights to trade - they continue to be harassed by the metro police.

He says the City’s informal trader policy is rigid and unimaginative and fails to address realities that traders experience on the ground.

Traders need a permanent presence and an established client base and need to be near banking facilities and places of high traffic flows. "One lady whom we spoke to during the research sends her four children to a school very nearby to where she works.  And during the course of our conversation she made it quite clear she can never imagine trading anywhere else for this reason," says Webster.

Traders spoke about lack of infrastructure and service provision such as running water, ablution facilities, storage space and waste removal services which they say is guaranteed in the city's informal trader's policy.

They say despite a Constitutional Court order barring the city from interfering with their rights to trade - they continue to be harassed by the metro police.

The African Traders Organisation, Matron Mhlanga says, "You will see JMPD coming around and seizing goods from people who have been trading in those spots. Remember the Court Order said everyone who was trading before the Clean Sweep campaign you must go back to where you were trading. And this is where people have gone back to.  But we normally see JMPD coming and attacking those people in the spots where they've been trading for more than 15-years and 20-years."

The City says while it abides by the court order it will continue to enforce by-laws.  

The City’s Nthatisi Modingoane says the assertion that the city is anti-informal trading is incorrect. He says they have a plan in place to accommodate as many traders as possible. "And we are confident that once rolled out this plan will accommodate trading because the city is moving from a premise that trading is part of the nucleus of Johannesburg and there's no intention to do away with informal trading."

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