Tanya Zack’s open letter to the City of Johannesburg

From: Tanya Zack
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 21:00:52 +0200
Subject: Open letter on Trader ‘clean-up’ on Jeppe Street 15 October

Dear City Officials

I write this in my personal capacity as an independent consultant. I am working on a book project in the inner city. I have also consulted to the City on the preparation of the Inner City Roadmap. It is with these insights and experience of inner city matters that I wish to highlight what I have witnessed in the CBD today and to ask for an explanation

I was on Jeppe Street in the so-called ‘Ethiopian quarter’ centered around Delvers Street in the late morning today. This is the third day of JMPD/SAPS/SARS/Customs operations in the area and I can only report to you on what I saw today which I realise is far less than many others have witnessed in that area over the last few days.

The informal trader stalls which are rented from the City by traders had been removed.

There were many JMPD and SAPS officers on the street. A number of SARS and Customs police were also present. The uniformed people were stopping traders and passers by, checking asylum papers. They were chasing traders and searching them. Goods – including goods such as boxes of apples- were being confiscated. Shop keepers were closing their shops and police were shouting at them to close their shops. Some JMPD and SAPS officers were entering buildings.
I saw a person being dragged out of his vehicle.

I saw a JMPD officer threaten a female trader with a broken stick, and pull the trader by the arm. I heard her shout at the trade r’if you want me to f*** you up I will, I have tolerated you for too long’
I saw policeman hit a man on his head with a stick.

I saw another policeman grab a long pole from one of the shops and use it to prod and hit and threaten people as he ran down the road shouting at people to clear away.

I saw 15 JMPD officers surround two people they seemed to have arrested and who were sitting on their haunches .

I saw a JMPD officer whip people with a long whip.

I was told by traders that their City allocated stands had been broken down over the last two days. They had been given no written notice. The JMPD and SAPS officers had told them that they had 10 minutes to vacate their stands. No reasons were given for this action. Several traders showed me their street trader cards and said they had paid their rentals up to February 2014.

A JMPD officer told me the instruction for what he called the clean up came from the Mayor.

I am perplexed. When we presented the draft Inner City Roadmap, which I understood to be basis for cooperative interventions and management to the City I heard City leaders say that the poor had to be permitted to generate a livelihood in the inner city. They were concerned about cleanliness but talked about the need to devise ways in which self management of trader space could be promoted. The language of the draft Roadmap includes such phrases as:

“The City’s policy towards informal trade is ambiguous and needs to be revised. A strategy that supports livelihoods through the enablement of the second economy in the inner city needs to be twinned with measures to protect the health and safety conditions of informal business development and the spaces in which such activities occur and to manage the urban environment where informal business takes place. The development of markets must be undertaken in conjunction with the management of trading located in inappropriate spaces”.

The Roadmap was categorical that CLEANING was not about removal of traders. In fact the draft report listed the tasks to be undertaken in cleaning:
This ‘Clean Sweep’ Task Team is to include Region F quadrant managers, JRA, Joburg Water, City Power, Pikitup, CID representatives. The task team may spawn smaller teams per quadrant to dealdirectly with problems in a particular space. In these the only mention of traders is that street traders are to partner with Pikitup to keep the area free of litter.
It involves:

· Repair and maintain all traffic lights

· Repair, upgrade and maintain all street signage- road names and traffic notices

· Remove all excess and broken street furniture

· Repair all necessary street furniture

· Remove all rubble

· Repair all storm water outlets and replace all manhole covers

· Repair potholes

· Repair all water leaks

· Clean park space, maintain equipment

· Repair and maintain public ablutions

· Undertake a coordinated cleaning programme (not a once off campaign) with Pikitup, street traders and CIDs /private sector

I object strongly to the idea that the operation underway is in any way a ‘cleaning’ of the inner city or that it complies with any existing economic or spatial or urban management policy. They City needs to be accountable against its own policy and the actions of trader removal, outside of any economic or spatial plan are entirely out of sync with the City’s policy intentions or statements.

I maintain that the City needs to explain the action of removing stands as well as of extremely rough treatment of legitimate traders and ordinary residents and workers within the inner city.

1. What are the intentions of the clean up?
2. What is the alternative plan for the accommodation of traders who have ben removed?
3. What legal process has been followed in removing trader goods?
4. What legal process has ben followed in removing stands?
5. What notice was given to traders?
6. What are the termination terms and conditions of leases that traders have entered into in these stands – which have ben allocated by the City?
7. How do these actions align with stated City policy?
8. What is the City’s informal trading policy and how do these actions align with that policy?

I have no doubt that the trader community of ‘Jeppe’ requires answers to these and other questions.

I am willing to participate in dialogue that might facilitate a positive way forward that is coherent in economic and spatial terms and that is based on dialogue with traders. I await insight into the aims of what the intentions are.