Tanya Zack on Street Traders in Johannesburg – ANN7 Vuka Africa

8 December 2013

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A continuing legacy of struggle

From the Daily Maverick

JULIAN BROWN

07 DEC 2013 10:11 (SOUTH AFRICA)

The deaths of great men and women are public affairs. It is easy to imagine being asked, in some future year, “Where were you when Nelson Mandela died?” Where I was, was a pitiful reminder of the ongoing struggle for liberation.

I am writing this on Friday morning, a cold and grey morning after. I don’t know how a reader might answer the question – whether you were listening to the radio, or watching the television; whether you were alone, or with family, or with friends – but I do know where I was last night, at a quarter to midnight.

The lobby of the Johannesburg Central Police Station is not a welcoming place at any time – but the hours around midnight are particularly bleak. The light is harsh and medicinal. The uniformed men behind the counter are tired, disinterested, and suspicious. A woman in a blood-stained shirt rests her head against her forearms while she waits for someone to notice her, to speak to her. Earlier, a man collapsed and lay there, writhing, un-noticed and un-aided.

I was there with my husband, and with a dozen of his colleagues. We were there because Nomzamo Zondo, an attorney at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), had been arrested that afternoon while trying to enforce a new order of the Constitutional Court. That order had been handed down at 14.30 in the afternoon, and interdicted the Johannesburg police from interfering with about two thousand of the city’s informal traders. These traders had won the right to return to their stalls, and resume trading until further notice.

At about 17.00, Nomzamo was called to the corner of Hoek and De Villiers Streets, in the Joburg CBD. Officers of the Johannesburg Municipal Police Division (JMPD) were harassing traders who had heard of the court victory and set up their stalls. Once there, Nomzamo tried to tell the JMPD officers about the court’s order.

Then they arrested her.

The afternoon’s euphoria collapsed in an evening of disillusion. The Constitutional Court’s decision to dismiss the city of Johannesburg’s cynical arguments about the ‘convenience’ of removing traders from the city’s streets – regardless of the personal costs – represented a victory for compassion and common-sense. It proved that our system could work: that everyone can get representation and can be vindicated. It proved that people’s rights must trump the city’s convenience in the new South Africa – and that the exercise of political and administrative power would not be allowed to proceed untrammelled.

And then, about two hours later, Nomzamo was arrested trying to enforce it.

The arresting officers showed an absolute disdain for the Court’s ruling. They told her that the JMPD ‘does not take orders from civilians.’

Perhaps they meant that they did not take orders from her. Perhaps they meant that they would not take orders from the Constitutional Court itself. I don’t know.

Nor does anyone else.

Last, night, the JPMD’s spokesman told the media: “As for today’s court ruling, the JMPD will be advised by the legal department of Johannesburg.” Which seems to imply that he and the police imagine that there may be an available option other than immediate compliance.

He also admitted that the JMPD had been sent in force to disrupt informal trading, and that they had used rubber bullets to dislodge the traders.

He told the media that Nomzamo had been arrested because she had been “inciting traders to act against officers.”

He could give no details of how she had been doing so. Neither could the police at Johannesburg Central – the old John Vorster Square. In the hours that followed, lawyers remonstrated with the cops to little effect. Nomzamo was held in a back office, her wrists cut and bruised from handcuffs. She had one shoe on – the other had come off as the police had wrestled her into the back of their vehicle.

She was refused police bail, which meant that she had to apply for prosecutorial bail – which could only be discussed once she had been charged, and if a prosecutor was willing to come out in the evening. For hours, the police could not identify an investigating officer; nor could they say what she would be charged with. Maybe this is not unusual – but it is surprising for an attorney to be arrested in the course of her duties, refused access to her own lawyers for hours, to have bail denied and delayed, and for charges to be so slowly drawn up.

Around about 22:00 we were told that Nomzamo would be charged with Public Violence and with Malicious Damage to Property. No one could give us the specifics of the charges – what violence? What property? – perhaps because there were no such specifics to give. Regardless, charging her meant that the system could resume and – over the next two hours – a R500 bail was negotiated.

Just before midnight, Nomzamo walked out the station – shaken, tired, cut and bruised around her wrists, and missing one of her shoes.

After she left, as we were waiting for a taxi to take us from the police station back to our own home, the news of Mandela’s death came through.

It’s hard not to think about legacies in moments like this – and hard not to ask what has become of Mandela’s legacy, two decades after he became South Africa’s first black president.

Nomzamo’s ordeal – mild as it may have been, in comparison to many others’ – was pointless, a brute exercise of the police’s power to intimidate those who challenge them. Hundreds of men and women without Nomzamo’s access to lawyers, to activists, and to the media are arrested on equally specious charges.

Johannesburg’s informal traders are back on the street this morning. Already, rumours of police harassment are spreading. I can’t believe that much time will pass before the next arrests, and the ones after that; the next court case, and the one after that; the next attempt to force the city and its police forces to obey the law – to respect ‘civilians’ and civilian authority, to respect the rights of Johannesburg’s poor citizens as much as the rights of its richer ones.

Nomzamo appeared at the Magistrate’s Court in the morning, and all charges against her were dropped because they had no prospects of success.

If we want to look for Mandela’s legacy, we cannot simply look at what has been achieved – because, for all of the massive changes since 1994, we simply have not succeeded in creating a just society in which the state serves all its citizens.

Instead, we have look at people like Nomzamo and the traders she represents. These are people who have dedicated their lives to struggle – whether it is the struggle to help, support, and represent South Africa’s poor or whether its is the struggle for personal dignity, self-respect, and recognition.

This is Mandela’s legacy. A legacy of struggle – public and personal, political and private. The state he once led still, often, fails to live up to his ideals and his example. But that doesn’t mean that we should accept its failures as normal, unremarkable, and inevitable. Neither does it mean that we should despair in the face of the state’s failures – its violence, its corruption, its recalcitrance.

It means that we have to embrace Mandela’s life of struggle as our legacy. We have to continue to fight for our own dignity, and for the dignities of others. We can no longer rely on the distant figure of Madiba to reassure us of our country’s successes, and to remind us of the ideals on which our South Africa was founded.

It means that we have to act and struggle for ourselves, now.

When someone asks me, ten years from now, where I was when Mandela died, I hope that my answer will not be, “Watching the police abuse their power,” but, instead: “Watching someone else pick up the struggle where Mandela left off.”DM

Julian Brown is a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Full article at http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2013-12-07-a-continuing-legacy-of-struggle/#.UqRCC2QW1k5

Operation Clean Sweep: Johannesburg metro police arrests human rights lawyer

From Daily Maverick

Greg Nicolson & Thapelo Lekgowa
06 DEC 2013 02:49 (SOUTH AFRICA)

Social and Economic Rights Institute (SERI) lawyer Nomzamo Zondo was arrested on Thursday as she was assisting informal traders in Johannesburg’s inner-city. While informal traders are still fighting Mayor Parks Tau’s Operation Clean Sweep, battling for the right to make a living and have their rights protected, Zondo’s arrest shows just how far the police are willing to go. As it turns out, very far.

Zondo is one of SERI’s lawyers who regularly represent those whose rights have been denied by a system skewed against them. The Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that the City of Johannesburg could not stop traders from returning to their places of work. Thousands of informal traders have been cleared off the streets after Operation Clean Sweep saw Metro Police confiscating goods and allegedly assaulting them for trading.

SERI has been involved in the case and Zondo was helping some of the traders. They were jubilant after the ruling and according to Phumlani Ndlovu, deputy chair of the South African Informal Traders Forum, they were even giving away goods for free. The City has said it will continue to crack down on trading (only those traders deemed legal and part of the case can return to their stalls) and Metro Police reportedly assumed that they had started working again.

To stop the trading, Metro Police shot rubber bullets, said Ndlovu, injuring four people. The traders called Zondo for help. When she tried to intervene she was allegedly assaulted and arrested by the cops. Zondo was supposed to be on TV on Thursday night for an interview regarding the informal traders win. Instead, she was locked up after an apparently brutal arrest.

Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) spokesperson Wayne Minaar said she was arrested on charges of obstructing justice and assisting traders to act against officers. “JMPD will continue with its legal mandate to clear and observe traders until advised otherwise by the legal department of the City of Johannesburg,” said Minaar.

Late on Thursday evening, SERI’s Kate Tissington said that apparently Zondo was being denied bail. She hopes a prosecutor is available so that Zondo can get bail. (Zondo has a 5-month old baby that she is breastfeeding.)

SERI has before accused the Metro Police of brutally arresting people with impunity during Clean Sweep. In a chilling press release two weeks ago, the organisation detailed the story of Belinda (not her real name). “On Friday at around 12:00 Belinda and a group of other traders were approached near Kerk Street by more than 30 JMPD officers. Belinda saw JMPD officials chasing people away and taking bribes. Belinda also saw them assault another female trader by kicking her with booted feet. She took photographs of both these incidents on her cell phone. Another female trader reported being hit, slapped and sworn at by the police,” said SERI.

The account continued: “The JMPD officers approached Belinda, who took the photos, and confiscated her cell phone, saying that ‘she was making as if she was a journalist’ and must go home. When Belinda approached them to ask for her phone back, they told her that she was under arrest because ‘it is illegal to take photos of the police doing their job’.”

SERI accused the police of violence and xenophobia. “The police then drove around with Belinda and a number of other arrested traders, and she witnessed JMPD officers confiscating mannequins outside a clothing shop, and the owner paying money to the officials to return them. Eventually they were driven to the JMPD station at Faraday Street where they were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs, spat on and further verbally and physically assaulted. Throughout this ordeal, the traders were subject to xenophobic abuse. One trader was told that that the JMPD ‘would drag her with the car like the other guy from Maputo’. Belinda was told that ‘all of this is Mandela’s fault for having married Graca,’” said SERI.

The Constitutional Court disagreed with a South Gauteng High Court ruling last week that found in favour of the City. Some of the traders will be allowed to go back to the streets. But the issue, and the allegations of police violence, will surely return to court. DM

Update: Zondo was released late on Thursday night on R500 bail and ordered to appear in court on Friday.

Full article at http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-12-06-operation-clean-sweep-johannesburg-metro-police-arrests-human-rights-lawyer/#.UqGRsGSzs0O

[SERI press statement] JMPD officials disregard Con Court order, assault and arrest lawyer acting for informal traders

PRESS STATEMENT

Issued by: Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (SERI)

5 December 2013

JMPD officials disregard Con Court order, assault and arrest lawyer acting for informal traders

Nomzamo Zondo, an attorney from SERI who represents the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and over 1 200 informal traders, was this afternoon arrested by Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers in the Johannesburg CBD.

Her arrest comes only a few hours after the Constitutional Court interdicted the City of Johannesburg from interfering with lawful informal traders’ rights to trade in the inner city, pending the hearing of an application to the High Court to review the decision to implement the so-called Operation Clean Sweep campaign in the inner city.

The JMPD, also a party to the Constitutional Court urgent application, disregarded the order handed down by Moseneke ACJ and prevented the informal traders from setting up their stalls in the places they occupied prior to Operation Clean Sweep, as authorised by the court order.

Zondo was called to the scene and, according to a number of eyewitnesses, when she tried to explain to the JMPD officials what the order meant – that the traders were lawfully allowed to trade – they responded by assaulting and arresting her immediately. She was taken to Johannesburg Central Police Station.

The exact charges and reasons for her arrest remain unknown, over five hours after she was arrested. She has not yet been formally charged, only processed. She has been denied police bail and a prosecutor will only come to the police station to grant prosecutorial bail once an Investigating Officer has been assigned and there is a docket. If it is too late at night, he will not come at all.

Zondo has a five month old baby. If necessary SERI will approach the High Court tonight to get urgent bail granted.

·         Constitutional Court order (5 December 2013) here: http://bit.ly/1bKrzoW  

·         Read more on the SAITF case and find all the papers here: http://bit.ly/1apZ5yw

Contact:

Princess Magopane, candidate attorney at SERI: 082 964 5380

Michael Clark, legal researcher at SERI: 082 535 6209 / michael@seri-sa.org

Joburg hawkers’ lawyer arrested

From City Press

Dewald van Rensburg @City_Press #cleansweep5 December 2013 18:58

Mere hours after a Constitutional Court hearing this afternoon cleared street traders to return to their old spots in Johannesburg, the JMPD once again clashed with them and arrested their lawyer.

The incident occurred shortly before 6pm when a group of traders wanted to celebrate their victory by returning to their trading spots. A “huge contingent” of both JMPD and SAPS officers arrived to remove them. According to one trader representative up to a hundred traders were present.

The JMPD then arrested Nomzama Zondo, an attorney from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri) who has been representing the street traders in their court battle with the city. She was taken to the Johannesburg Central police station and is being charged with obstructing the police in their duties, she told City Press by SMS from the station.

When contacted for comment, Wayne Minnaar, the JMPD’s spokesperson, read City Press the “official response”.

“The JMPD has a legal mandate to enforce bylaws of the city. As for today’s court ruling, the JMPD will be advised by the legal department of Johannesburg.”

Zondo is also to be charged with “inciting traders to act against officers,” he told City Press.

Minnaar said the traders were attempting to set up in spaces that had never been demarcated trading areas, not even before Operation Clean Sweep. As a result they were contravening bylaws despite the ConCourt ruling in their favour, he said.

Minnaar admitted that it was a “huge contingent” of officers, but says the crowd of traders was also very large.

He also confirmed that the crowd was dispersed with rubber bullets.

According to Matron Mahlangu, an organiser for the African Traders Organisation and the Workers Socialist Party, two people were also hit with rubber bullets in a confrontation near the corner of De Villiers and King George streets in the inner city, near the Noord Street Taxi rank.

Full article at http://www.citypress.co.za/news/joburg-hawkers-lawyer-arrested/

Jo’burg street traders back to work

From Mail & Guardian

05 DEC 2013 17:07 MANQOBA NXUMALO

Johannesburg street traders hugged, sang and screamed with joy when the Constitutional Court ruled they could be allowed back to trade in the city.

Johannesburg street traders hugged, sang and screamed with joy when the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday they could be allowed back to trade in the city.

They were evicted from the Johannesburg city centre in October as part of the city’s “Operation Clean Sweep”.

The judgment follows a review application filed by the South African Informal Trading Forum (SAITF) and the South African National Retail Alliance (Sanra), who were assisted by lawyers instructed by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri). They wanted the court to set aside a judgment by the high court in Johannesburg, authored by Judge Ramarumo Monama, which dismissed the traders’ application for lack of urgency.

The Constitutional Court ruled that the legal traders who had approached the court for interim and urgent relief – at least 2 168 of them – should not be harassed by the city and that they must be allowed to return to trade from their stalls.

Their main application, which asks the high court to rule on the legality of the evictions in general, will be heard next year. However, this does not mean that all those who were removed from the city will be allowed back – the judgment applies only to the 2 168 members of Sanra and the SAITF.

An excited Edmund Ellias, the Sanra spokesperson, said outside the court that the traders would not even wait a day to get back to work.

“Some of our members are already back in the streets. For those who are legal traders but were not part of the application, a window of opportunity has been opened. They can now approach the court and ask to be reinstated as well,” Ellias said.

The traders, mostly women, were emotional and at times appeared uneasy during the lengthy submissions.

Their anxiety reached fever pitch when the court asked for a break to allow the City of Johannesburg’s lawyer, Gcinumuzi Malindi SC, to take further instruction on an amicable solution to the hawkers’ plight. He had conceded that the city had acted illegally in removing legal traders from their stalls.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke advised him to consult his client about a possible solution, particularly in reinstating all the legal traders, as it was evident that the city had acted in contravention of the law.

Convenient
Malindi conceded that it was “convenient” for the city to evict both lawful and unlawful traders from the inner city centre. Moseneke interjected: “Did counsel just say ‘convenient’? Just deal with what is lawful, not what is convenient.”

Malindi consulted the city but told the court that his client was unwavering: it did not want the traders back unless they had been verified by the city in line with its ongoing process of re-registration.

Meanwhile, the traders were being briefed regularly by Seri’s attorney, Nomzamo Zondo, who interpreted the legal jargon for those unable to follow it. However, when the court asked for a break to make a final decision, the traders gathered in a huddle and began to pray.

When the verdict was announced, Zondo burst into tears. “We have been vindicated,” she said. “Now our clients can get back to trade because they were legal anyway,” she said.

Full article at http://mg.co.za/article/2013-12-05-joburg-street-traders-back-to-work

Johannesburg hawkers win in ConCourt, can resume trading

From Times Live

Sapa | 05 December, 2013 15:01

The Constitutional Court ruled that informal traders in Johannesburg’s CBD can return to their trading spots, the SA Informal Traders Forum (Saitf) said.

“The ruling was that all the traders that were removed by the City of Johannesburg can now resume trading,” Saitf deputy chairman Phumulani Ndlovu said.

The city was ordered to pay the costs of the application. He said the court ordered the city not to interfere with informal traders operating on the streets.

Last Wednesday, the High Court in Johannesburg ruled that the application by the traders to return to their trading spots was not urgent.

The hawkers were represented by the SA National Traders and Retail Alliance (Santra) and Saitf. They asked the high court to order the city to allow them to return to the pavements of the inner city to trade.

They were removed so the city could verify how many informal traders were operating in the central business district, but were not permitted to return.

Santra and the Saitf approached the Constitutional Court, seeking an order for the hawkers to return to the sites where they previously traded.

Full article at http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2013/12/05/johannesburg-hawkers-win-in-concourt-can-resume-trading

‘Convenient’ to remove lawful traders in Op Clean Sweep

From Mail & Guardian

05 DEC 2013 12:19 SARAH EVANS

The City of Jo’burg has admitted in court that lawful informal traders were removed from the streets along with illegal ones in Operation Clean Sweep.

The City of Jo’burg has admitted that lawful informal traders were removed along with alleged illegal traders during the city’s controversial “Operation Clean Sweep”, currently before the Constitutional Court.

Counsel for the city argued on Thursday that it was “convenient” for the city to remove both categories of traders, so that it could establish which traders were trading illegally.

Deputy chief justice Dikgang Mosekene intervened: “Did counsel really just say ‘convenient’? … Can we just stick to what was lawful, not what was convenient.”

The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and the South African National Traders Retail Association (Santra) approached the court on Thursday, seeking leave to appeal against a high court judgment that ruled their application for relief from Operation Clean Sweep was not urgent.

The applicants told the Constitutional Court that their main relief application would not be heard in the high court before February, by which time “irreparable” harm would have been caused to the thousands of traders who have been evicted from the inner city.

They want to be allowed to return to their trading stalls until their main relief application is heard.

Intervention
But the city argued that the court should not intervene. The city argued that any prejudice against the traders was temporary, and would only last as long as it took to verify the traders operating legally.

Paul Kennedy, SC, for the SAITF, argued that although it was unusual for the Constitutional Court to intervene in a case such as this, the circumstances were exceptional, and it was not unlawful or improper for the court to do so.

In its application, the SAITF argued that the applicants were trading “lawfully, peacefully and with the [city’s] consent” until they were evicted and had their goods confiscated by the city and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) during October 2013.

“They [the city] say the clean sweep is necessary to deal with illegal traders, but the respondents have never suggested that any of the traders in this application were trading illegally.

“Indeed, Operation Clean Sweep made no attempt whatsoever to distinguish between the traders, who have always been doing business legally, and other informal traders who may not have been.”

‘Extensive’ negotiations
The traders say that, after “extensive” negotiations with the city, they agreed to a process of “verification”, when all the traders would re-register as lawful traders. They would then be allowed to return to their stalls.

The traders say they re-registered themselves, as agreed, during the week of November 4, but when they tried to return to their stalls, they were assaulted by JMPD officers, who also dismantled their stalls.

Now the city has told the traders that it wants to “relocate” the traders, but the traders say the city has not complied with any of the requirements in section 6A of the Business Act, which says that the city must consult before informal traders are relocated.

Full article at http://mg.co.za/article/2013-12-05-convenient-to-remove-lawful-traders-in-op-clean-sweep

‘Operation Clean Sweep’ Goes To ConCourt

From SA Breaking News

Posted by: Jamie-Leigh Matroos    Posted date:  December 5, 2013

Johannesburg – Informal traders in the Johannesburg CBD have turned to the Constitutional Court after their application to continue trading was deemed “not urgent” by the Johannesburg High Court.

The Constitutional Court will hear an urgent application on Thursday, requesting an interim order allowing informal traders to keep doing business in the CBD.

The vendors filed an urgent application on the 19th of November, requesting that they be permitted to trade in a manner consistent with sections 9 and 10 of the City’s Informal Trading By-Laws, at the locations they occupied immediately before their removal.

The traders appeared in the Johannesburg High Court on the 26th of November, but the High Court ruled the matter is not urgent and postponed it to next year.

This caused further outrage among traders who say they have no means to make a living unless they can continue to trade.

The traders took to the streets of Johannesburg in protest. The group attacked businesses in the CBD saying if they cannot earn a living, other businesses have no right to. Traders threw stones and beat shop keepers forcing them to close their shops.

One man was reportedly beaten with sticks and nearly had his shop looted for refusing to close.

Informal traders have been left jobless for several weeks after the City of Johannesburg declared unlicensed traders may no longer sell their wares in the city centre. The City launched Operation Clean Sweep to remove the traders, claiming this measure is part of a crime reduction strategy. According to reports in the media while Operation Clean Sweep is meant to remove only unlicensed traders, those with legitimate licenses have also been targeted.

Full article at http://www.sabreakingnews.co.za/2013/12/05/operation-clean-sweep-goes-to-concourt/