[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

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[SERI press release] Informal Traders Appeal to Con Court

PRESS STATEMENT

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

2 December 2013 

Informal Traders Appeal to Con Court

The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and over 1 200 informal traders have applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the South Gauteng High Court order handed down on 27 November, which struck the traders’ case from the roll.

SAITF wants the matter dealt with urgently and for the Constitutional Court to place the traders – who have always traded lawfully – in a position to continue with their lawful business activities, pending the determination of the appeal (either to the Constitutional Court or to a Full Bench of the High Court). This trading would occur in line with the City of Johannesburg’s Informal Trading By-Laws at the locations the traders occupied immediately before their removal in terms of Operation Clean Sweep.

Informal traders operating in the CBD have been unable to earn their living and provide for their families for more than a month now, because of a combination of the unlawful conduct of the City and the refusal of the High Court to grant them interim relief on an urgent basis. SERI argues that, unless this application succeeds, they will be unable to earn their living and provide for their families for at least two and half more months. This is unacceptable, as the traders face utter destitution, including eviction from their homes, inability to buy food or pay for water, electricity or essential medication or pay their children’s school fees.

The interim relief sought by the traders is narrow and carefully tailored. It is aimed at preserving their basic dignity and the integrity of their livelihoods, while the City’s actions are reviewed.

The traders hope to be heard in the Constitutional Court on Thursday, 5 December 2013.

Download the court papers and read more on the case here: bit.ly/1apZ5yw

Contact:

Nomzamo Zondo, attorney at SERI: nomzamo@seri-sa.org / 071 638 6304 / 011 356 5868

Traders told their plight is not urgent

SERI Press Release

The South Gauteng High Court today struck off the roll an urgent application brought by the South African National Traders’ Retail Alliance (SANTRA) and the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) to allow informal traders back to work pending a decision about the lawfulness of the City of Johannesburg’s decision to implement Operation Clean Sweep by removing traders and not permitting them to return after they complied with a verification and re-registration process.

In an order handed down by Judge Ramarumo Monamo, the court agreed to the consolidation of SANTRA and SAITF’s applications and struck the matter off the roll for lack of urgency. The Judge also ordered each party to pay their own costs. No reasons for his decision were given.

SERI, who represents SAITF and over 1 200 traders, is deeply disappointed with today’s order. The order sends the message that the dire socio-economic conditions of our clients, brought about by the City of Johannesburg’s unlawful actions, are not urgent.

Many people are living off savings that are fast running out, are struggling to pay rent and services and to put food on the table. For example, one of the applicants, Ms Ngqwala, used to sell handbags and clothing in Block 7, and has been trading since 1993. She has 16 dependents who rely on her income. This income has disappeared overnight. Another applicant, Ms Sithole, sold vegetables in Block 13 until she was removed by the JMPD. Now she is unable to afford transport to take her children to school, so they have stopped attending. She also faces eviction as she is unable to pay her rent. Mr Sekhwela traded in Block 10 until he was removed as part of Operation Clean Sweep. He is now struggling to take care of his sick elderly mother.

According to Nomzamo Zondo, SERI attorney for the traders: “Our clients are devastated. They cannot believe that the court has decided to standby while the City tramples on their rights and acts with complete disregard for the law. They want to know why their children must starve and face eviction because the City has failed to manage informal trading in the inner city.”

The two trader associations are meeting this evening to discuss a way forward, and are considering their legal options.

Read the order here: http://www.seri-sa.org/images/SAIITF_SANTRA_order_27Nov13.pdf

Read more on the case here: http://www.seri-sa.org/index.php/19-litigation/case-entries/206-south-african-informal-traders-forum-and-others-v-city-of-johannesburg-and-others-saitf

Contact:

Nomzamo Zondo, attorney at SERI: nomzamo@seri-sa.org / 071 638 6304
Title of Resource: Traders told their plight is not urgent

Informal trader beaten by JMPD officers

PRESS STATEMENT

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

25 November 2013

 Informal trader beaten by JMPD officers 

Physical abuse, bribery and xenophobia evident in Operation Clean Sweep

On the afternoon of Friday 22 November 2013, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officials assaulted and arrested a number of informal traders in the inner city of Johannesburg. A female trader from Mozambique, who is currently represented by SERI, witnessed the assaults and was subsequently beaten and arrested. Below is an account of the incident drawn from her statement. She remains anonymous as she will be laying charges against the police and fears being victimised. We refer to her below as “Belinda”.

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.

The JMPD officers approached Belinda, who took the photos, and confiscated her cell phone, saying that “she was making as if she is 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”.

They took her into their police van, where approximately 20 officers beat her and pulled out most of her hair (see photos below). They took photos of Belinda without her hair and made fun of her. A female officer eventually gave her back her cell phone, with which she continued taking photos of the violent assaults on traders. The police took her phone once again and deleted the photos.

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”.

The traders were driven to Johannesburg Central Police Station where they were charged with “resisting arrest”. Eventually an ambulance was called to take them to the Hillbrow Community Health Care Centre, where they were given pain medication. Prosecutors later declined to press charges. SERI will be instituting damages claims against the JMPD and the City of Johannesburg in due course.

Contact:

Nomzamo Zondo, attorney at SERI: nomzamo@seri-sa.org / 071 638 6304 / 011 356 5868

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Photos: A female informal trader’s hair was pulled out by JMPD officers.

URGENT APPLICATION BY SANTRA AGAINST CITY OF JOHANNESBURG AND JMPD TO BE HEARD TOMORROW

26 November 2013

URGENT APPLICATION BY SANTRA AGAINST CITY OF JOHANNESBURG AND JMPD TO BE HEARD TOMORROW

1.       On Friday, 15 November 2014, the South African National Traders Association (“SANTRA”) issued, through its attorneys, Routledge Modise, an urgent application against the City of Johannesburg and the JMPD.

2.       The Urgent application has been opposed by the City of Johannesburg.

3.       By agreement between the parties, the urgent application was postponed to Tuesday, 26 November 2013 in order for the City to file an answering affidavit and for negotiations to ensue.

4.       Regrettably no resolution has been resolved by way of negotiation and on Saturday, 23 November 2013 the City filed its answering affidavit.

5.       The City’s answering affidavit did not respond to the substantive allegations made by the Informal Traders rather focusing on the urgency of the matter. The City in its papers has said that the matter is not urgent and should be dealt with on the normal court roll during the course of next year.

6.       SANTRA has filed a replying affidavit reasserting the urgency of the matter.

7.       The Urgent application will be heard at 10h00 on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 in the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Local Division, Johannesburg. SANTRA will be looking for an Order in terms of which

7.1.    The City is interdicted from demolishing any further stalls.

7.2.    The City is compelled to allow informal traders who are lawfully entitled to trade:

(a)            to return to the areas previously allocated to them and from which they were removed; and

(b)           to continue trading in those areas.

7.3.    in respect of those traders whose stalls were demolished: the City is compelled to reinstate those stalls, or in the alternative, to allow those traders to return to the sites where the stalls were previously, and to continue trading on those sites; and

7.4.    pending the determination the review proceedings which are launched togetherr with the interdict, the City, through JMPD or otherwise is interdicted, from unlawfully interfering with the traders restored to trading in terms of paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 above.

7.5.    The City is compelled to give reasons (which the City has refused to do) for its decisions:

7.5.1. to relocate informal traders to an unknown destination in an unspecified time-period; and

7.5.2. to prohibit or restrict trading in areas in the CBD which are currently demarcated for informal trading.

Yours faithfully

Michal Johnson

Pro Bono Attorney

Routledge Modise Inc.

Tel (27 11) 286 6900
Fax 086 674 6241

Direct (27 11) 523-6128

Email michalj@rmlaw.co.za

URGENT APPLICATION BROUGHT BY SANTRA AGAINST CITY OF JOHANNESBURG AND JMPD

URGENT APPLICATION BROUGHT BY SANTRA AGAINST CITY OF JOHANNESBURG AND JMPD

1. On Friday, 15 November 2014, the South African National Traders Association (“SANTRA”) issued, through its attorneys, Routledge Modise, an urgent application against the City of Johannesburg and the JMPD.

2. The urgent application is a result of the displacement of the Informal Traders within the City of Johannesburg.

3. The relief sought in the urgent application is two-part. The relief that is sought urgently and immediately is to:

3.1. interdict the City from demolishing any further stalls;

3.2. compel the City to allow informal traders who are lawfully entitled to trade: (a) to return to the areas previously allocated to them and from which they were removed; and (b) to continue trading in those areas.

3.3. in respect of those traders whose stalls were demolished: to compel City to reinstate those stalls, or in the alternative, to allow those traders to return to the sites where the stalls were previously, and to continue trading on those sites; and

3.4. pending the determination the review proceedings which are launched together with the interdict, to interdict City, through JMPD or otherwise, from unlawfully interfering with the traders restored to trading in terms of paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 above.

3.5. Compel the City to give reasons (which the City has refused to do) for its decisions: (a) to relocate informal traders to an unknown destination in an unspecified time-period; and (b) to prohibit or restrict trading in areas in the CBD which are currently demarcated for informal trading.

4. A review has been launched together with the interim interdict. In it (and after the City has provided the reasons referred to in paragraph 3.5 above), SANTRA seeks to review the following decisions taken by the City:

4.1. to demolish existing stalls erected by the City for the use of informal traders and which have been leased by SANTRA’s members for that purpose;

4.2. to relocate informal traders from the Joburg CBD; and

4.3. to declare certain areas in the CBD restricted or prohibited for the purposes of informal trading.

5. The Urgent application has been opposed by the City of Johannesburg.

6. The Urgent application will be heard at 10h00 on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 in the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Local Division, Johannesburg.

SERI PRESS STATEMENT: Informal traders to take City of Joburg and JMPD to court over ‘Operation Clean Sweep’

PRESS STATEMENT 14 November 2013

Informal traders to take City of Joburg and JMPD to court over ‘Operation Clean Sweep’

Today the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and 1 500 informal traders sent a letter to the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) demanding that they be permitted to return to trading in the inner city. SAITF and the traders intend to bring an application to the Johannesburg High Court to review the decision to forcibly remove them and thousands of other traders under the auspices of the City’s ‘Operation Clean Sweep.’

The informal traders have notified the City that the removal of traders and impoundment of goods during Operation Clean Sweep was unlawful and infringed their constitutional rights. The traders intend to have the decision to implement Operation Clean Sweep reviewed and set aside in court. Pending the institution of legal proceedings, they demand that the City and JMPD permit them to return to trading at the locations they occupied prior to their removal. They should be allowed to re-erect the stands that were removed by the City and JMPD. The latter must refrain from any further removal of informal traders.

If the City and JMPD do not agree to these conditions by Monday 18 November 2013, the informal traders will make an urgent application to the Johannesburg High Court for this relief.

Nomzamo Zondo, attorney for the SAITF and the informal traders, said: “The City’s actions against the traders has been characterised by a total disregard for the law. The City has trampled on our clients constitutional rights and continues to act with impunity. Meanwhile our clients are pushed into further poverty and have to face their hungry children, threats of eviction and unpaid bills. We hope that a court will make it clear that such lawlessness is not acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”

The full letter of demand is available on the SERI website:

http://seri-sa.org/images/SERI_Letter_of_Demand_14_November_2013.pdf

Contact:

Nomzamo Zondo, attorney at SERI: 071 638 6304 / nomzamo@seri-sa.org

SERI Press release 14 November 2013

Press Release: Foreign Traders a Benefit to Local Economies, Wits Study Shows

African Centre for Mirgation and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand

Foreign Traders a Benefit to Local Economies, Wits Study Shows

 

Foreign traders have been hit particularly hard by the recent spate of organized (Johannesburg) and spontaneous (Cape Town) attacks against street traders.  A report released today by the African Centre for Migration Society (ACMS), Somalinomics: A Case Study on the Economics of Somali Informal Trade in the Western Cape, shows that foreign-owned businesses bring numerous economic benefits to local economies. The report examines the role that Somali spaza shops play in the Western Cape. The findings challenge the view that foreign businesses harm South African economic interests.

 

“Both government and individuals are quick to turn their frustrations with economic hardships against foreign businesses,” said Roni Amit, Senior Researcher with the African Centre for Migration & Society. “The perception that South Africans are suffering because of the presence of foreign businesses, however, lacks any empirical basis, and efforts to target these business may have broader implications.”

 

While competing South African traders blame their foreign counterparts for their business problems, the report shows that a wide array of factors is at play. These include food price increases and the expansion of retail supermarkets into township areas. It also demonstrates that foreign owned spaza shops make consumers better off by offering better, more flexible services and lower priced products.

 

“In fact, many South African consumers would be in a far more precarious position without these shops,” said Amit. “Unfortunately, the dominant voices are often those of competing shopkeepers who turn to xenophobic sentiments to veil their reluctance to adopt competitive practices that make everyone better off.”

 

The spaza shops included in the research benefit a range of stakeholders beyond consumers, including landlords, wholesalers, and small-scale suppliers. By highlighting interactions with these stakeholders, the report underscores the fact that efforts to drive out foreign and informal traders, like those recently undertaken by the City of Johannesburg, will not affect traders alone.

 

Please download full report here. For more information please email Dr. Roni Amit.

COSATU press statement on the informal economy sector in Johannesburg

6 November 2013

COSATU notes with grave concern the manner in which the Johannesburg informal trading crisis is unfolding.

What is most disturbing is the fact that after being forcibly removed 37 days ago, thousands of vulnerable people remain without income. This situation is intolerable, particularly in view of the fact that at the time of these mass forced removals no alternative plan was in place.

At the present time the verification process is massively, painfully and intolerably slow, causing mass, unabated human suffering. The displaced people are unable to pay basic monthly expenses such rent, transport for children to school, school fees, and they will not be in a position even to buy school books at the beginning of next year. Hunger is also now a factor.

We fail to comprehend why this Operation Clean Up has ‘cleaned up’ 1 300 well managed City Improvement District traders without any apparent valid reasons. COSATU urges the City to put up a concrete plan to expedite the process of re-registration and formulate, in consultation with the legitimate stakeholders, developmental management models.

COSATU prefers the City to utilise the principles contained in the SALGA Informal Economy Guideline Framework document and its own Second Economy Policy and Implementation Strategy, as well as the City’s Informal Trading Policy.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

Congress of South African Trade Unions

110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Streets

Braamfontein

2017

 

P.O.Box 1019

Johanneburg

2000

South Africa

 

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339

Fax: +27 11 339-6940

Mobile: +27 82 821 7456

E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za