Inner-city ‘cleansing’ eats away at food security

From BDLive


APART from destroying the livelihoods of informal traders, the City of Johannesburg’s “cleansing” operation is also sure to lead to rising hunger levels among the city’s poor, who rely on these food sellers for their daily purchases.

Research by the African Food Security Urban Network (Afsun) in 11 cities in nine countries found that the informal sector plays a critical role in making food available to the urban poor.

Afsun’s researchers have found that the majority of vendors of food sold on the streets of surveyed cities in Southern Africa are women who head households, mostly single mothers, and more than half of these women have no other source of household income.

While food bought on the street may be more expensive than that on supermarket shelves, it is the choice of the urban poor because of geographical access. Increased proximity and physical access is by no means equal to real or actual access, taking into account factors including transport costs and the inconsistent provision of electricity. The provision of electricity in many informal areas is at best unreliable and often nonexistent, and without refrigeration fresh food has to be bought daily.

In the urban context, food accessibility and dietary quality are the critical determinants of household and individual nutritional status. Afsun’s 2008-09 baseline food security survey showed that 75% of households in the poorer urban areas of 11 cities were food-insecure. However, less than 10% of these households reported that they often experienced an absolute shortage of food. Rather, they ate smaller meals or fewer meals a day in response to a lack of resources to purchase food. Many more households said they often did not eat their preferred diet, ate food that they did not like and ate a diet that lacked diversity. Dietary diversity scores are in fact very low, indicating that undernutrition in the urban context may be as much about what people can afford to eat as how much they can eat.

Analysis of the data from the Afsun survey shows that households headed by women score worse than their male counterparts on many food-security indicators, including dietary diversity and the number of months of adequate household food provisioning. This is clearly related to the greater poverty of households where women are the primary breadwinners and caregivers. Lower income and more precarious employment and livelihoods are major factors in this disparity.

In cities including Johannesburg and Cape Town, the vending of cooked food was found to provide a major source of employment, income and nutritional intake for the urban poor. These hot “street foods” prepared by vendors at their stalls or on pavements are generally cheaper than the formal fast-food equivalent. Because informal markets, street traders, food vendors and spazas are an essential income source for many urban households, the way in which the sector is regulated has a direct effect on availability and access to cheap food.

Income from these businesses has a significant effect on household livelihoods and many informal traders employ people in their businesses. If the government wants to pay more than lip service to job creation and the need to increase women’s economic empowerment, then it would do well to encourage this trade, which Afsun research shows is dominated by women and provides them with a significant degree of economic independence.

Nearly 90% of the rise in urban poverty due to the global increase in food prices is from poor households becoming even poorer rather than from households falling into poverty. The 2007-08 escalation in the cost of staple foods caused household food insecurity to grow rapidly and high unemployment levels are still eroding the purchasing power of many households. A recent World Bank study of the effects of food prices on poverty levels indicated that in many African countries the urban poor are more badly affected than the rural poor.

The Department of Agriculture has already acknowledged that 12-million South Africans go to bed hungry every night. Most of these people live in cities and need affordable and accessible food to lead any kind of productive life. If the government at all levels is serious about wanting to alleviate this poverty, it needs to stop its cynical treatment of informal vendors, equating them with litter in “street cleansing” programmes, and create an enabling environment for those who provide cheap and nutritious food for the urban poor.

Full article at



Johannesburg informal traders await Constitutional Court ruling

From BDLive


JOHANNESBURG’s lawful informal traders will know by 3pm whether they will be entitled to go back to their stalls on the streets of the inner city and continue trading, after a morning of argument in the Constitutional Court.

Members of the South African Informal Traders Forum and South African National Traders Retail Association, some of whom have lawfully traded on Johannesburg’s streets for more than 20 years, had been removed as part of the city’s “Operation Clean Sweep” — an initiative to rid the city of illegal hawkers.

After they were turned away by the high court, which struck their case off the roll saying it was not urgent, they went urgently to the Constitutional Court.

Counsel for the forum Paul Kennedy SC said the city had, in trying to clean up the city of illegal traders, removed all the traders — including the lawful ones — without any law authorising it to do so.

Because of what the city had done, the traders were now “truly in a state of absolute crisis”, he said.

“These are people who, despite the problems of bad education under apartheid, despite the problems of unemployment, crafted for themselves, out of their own resources, viable businesses,” he said.

He argued that even though it was highly unusual for the highest court to intervene in the case at this point there were exceptional circumstances, because, realistically, the high court would only be able to hear their appeal in February, which was too late.

Counsel for the association Chris Georgiades agreed, saying the city had an obligation to protect its citizens. Instead, he said, it had done the opposite: it had abused the traders and treated them like criminals.

Counsel for the city Gcina Malindi SC faced a barrage of questions from the Constitutional Court bench, eventually saying he was “constrained to concede” that the city had not followed the right procedures when it came to the lawful traders.

However, after going back to his client to see if the city was willing to settle, Mr Malindi told the court the city would not settle, but was willing to allow those traders who had been verified as lawful, after the start of Operation Clean Sweep, to go back to their trading positions.

But Mr Kennedy’s junior counsel, Steven Budlender, said this was not enough. He said the city had itself admitted that they had all been lawful traders and to avoid further litigation, the court should order that all of the forum’s and the association’s members be allowed back.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said the court would decide on an order by 3pm.


Full article at:

Operation Clean Sweep: End the crackdown on small business

From the Daily Maverick

02 Dec 2013 11:59 (South Africa)

Mmusi Maimane

In recent days we have witnessed a crackdown on informal traders in Johannesburg at the hands of the government in a way that’s reminiscent of apartheid-era force. These are the people who we should be doing everything possible to help and support. Instead we see armed metro police moving to evict traders who are legally making the money they need to educate and feed their children.

Small businesses, informal-business people and entrepreneurs are the basis of a growing economy that can create jobs and opportunities for people in Gauteng and in the country as a whole. And being an entrepreneur, or a trader, or small-business owner is a volatile and difficult space in the scheme of things. The last thing that people who are minding their own business need is for government to come in and destroy their livelihood.

Few appreciate the challenges and risk of going it alone in business. I have run my own small business, where everything was staked on that enterprise finding a way to bring in customers and deliver what they need. Like the traders of Johannesburg, I have felt the sharp discomfort of unpredictable times. But when that unpredictability comes from the very government meant to help you get ahead, then something is fundamentally wrong.

Over the years we have witnessed the roll-out of improved services and improved infrastructure to places where there was so much need.

Under former presidents of this country we saw things start to improve. And from these basic improvements we saw people start to take opportunities to improve their lives, to start businesses and to put food on the table. This includes the small-business owners and traders of the Johannesburg metro.

But today we know that things have gone horribly wrong. It seems that corruption has taken hold in every corner of this government and has led to personal enrichment at the top and the draining of opportunity from those below. We are still awaiting the public protector’s final report on Nkandla, but for now it seems that President Zuma sits squarely at the top of the pyramid of corruption.

This is the very corruption that kills economic growth and eliminates jobs. Yet when people attempt to start their own enterprises, they are beaten down by Zuma’s ANC government in Johannesburg.

It becomes clear as to how out of touch the government of the city and the province is when we contrast the basic subsistence being denied to traders with the lavish life of Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane.

This week I felt great sadness for the people of Gauteng when I learned that she intends to spend R570,000 of our money on her swimming pool. More than half a million rand for a luxury in her garden, while so many go without even a roof over their heads.

In fact, since 2004 more than R14-million has been spent on her house. I have to ask how this is justified in a province where so many people go to bed at night in the most basic living conditions.

This is why, where my party governs, we have passed regulations to cut out spending on houses, cars, credit cards, parties and everything of that sort, which the ANC holds dear. Instead we have spent the money where it counts – on service delivery.

My party’s track record where we govern is one that stands in stark contrast to that of Zuma’s ANC in Johannesburg, in fact it is the exact opposite of “Clean Sweeping” informal traders away – instead we work to support and accommodate traders in every way we can.

Every DA local government has set out to build relations with traders and to hand them licences to trade where they capture the market. In addition, traders in our local governments are protected through by-laws that set out their trading tenure and allow them freedom to trade within it. But most importantly, every single DA local government has an ever-increasing number of dedicated spaces in high-traffic corridors given to informal traders, with the necessary infrastructure and equipment to help them succeed.

Where we govern, we establish informal traders’ associations, and assist in the election of leaders to liaise on their behalf. And then we ensure that their voice is always heard and is included in planning that affects them. We invite them to small-business forums and facilitate their involvement. We roll out small-business hubs, where they are most needed by traders, and bring in private funding to support them in partnership. We open the doors to one-stop shops where small-business owners can come for business advice and make use of internet facilities, free of charge.

Recently we saw an ANC-led protest through the City of Cape Town that resulted in violent attacks on traders and small businesses, destroying some of them, looting stock and injuring many people. It was the DA-led City of Cape Town who went to court to fight for these traders and to stop such violence happening again. We will always stand up for the people who are out there each day, making a living and growing our economy.

And it is precisely these people in Gauteng who we are standing up for when we vehemently oppose e-tolls. The trader from Orange Farm who has to drive into the city to buy his stock at the best prices and passes through five e-toll gantries cannot afford to pay hundreds of rands a month to Sanral (the South African National Roads Agency Ltd) for this daylight robbery. When profit margins are small, as they are for small business, why does the government penalise them with more and more taxation for roads that could have been paid for with the fuel levy we are all already paying?

So where the government today fleeces these people, we will make their business easier. We will fight e-tolls with everything we have. I have also pledged in this space to open government tender processes so that everyone can see who wins each tender. Furthermore, I intend to pay all government suppliers on time and cut down on wasteful expenditure to spend money on services that people need.

Most importantly, we will never use force to stop people from earning a living when all they want is to get ahead.

I am running to be Premier of Gauteng because I believe that we can make change a reality in this province. We must vote against police beatings, we must vote against lavish houses for the Premier, and we must vote against a government that has lost touch with the people.

Change is in our hands. Our destiny is in our hands.


Full article at

No country for this kind of fascism

From BD Live


THE City of Johannesburg has not done a good job in the way that it has handled informal traders pushed out by “Operation Clean Sweep”.

The operation’s aim is ostensibly to clear out illegal traders and make space for those with permission to trade in the city. The effect has been more ominous: metro police have been pushing traders off the streets in an unsavoury fashion, leading two traders’ organisations to take the matter up with the courts.

Last week, the court ruled that the cases brought by the South African Informal Traders Forum and the South African National Traders Retail Alliance would have to be heard jointly next year.

This means that traders who have been unable earn a living since October may have to see the rest of the year out without a source of income.

After the ruling, there was looting of stores in the city centre, leading the city to halt negotiations.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa may bring another case to the court, involving a Mozambican woman who was allegedly assaulted by police after she filmed them harassing another trader.

The city’s politicians have a responsibility to run Johannesburg well. However, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what informal traders do, and what their place is in society.

If you view Operation Clean Sweep through the eyes of the people who are harassed every day, then it is nothing more than an attempt by mayor Parks Tau and his team to sweep out the “undesirables”.

I am sympathetic to that view. Informal traders, by definition, do not have access to the formal economy for a variety of reasons. The most important one is capacity (financial, skills and so on), and those who don’t have them find another way. Often this is the only way for them to earn an income. My grandmother was such a person. It’s an unglamorous existence.

Operation Clean Sweep is essentially telling these traders that they do not belong. The conduct of the police carrying out the sweeps tells the traders that they enjoy lesser rights than “formal” traders. The city is telling poor people that they have no space.

The preamble to the interim constitution makes it clear that the new South Africa is to be about respect of everyone’s rights regardless of race or station, and about sharing spaces that were previously restricted to certain people.

It says: “Whereas there is a need to create a new order in which all South Africans will be entitled to a common South African citizenship in a sovereign and democratic constitutional state in which there is equality between men and women and people of all races so that all citizens shall be able to enjoy and exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms.”

By formulating a policy that specifically excludes informal traders — who don’t buy into the system — the city is effectively isolating and targeting the poor. It is targeting their one source of reliable income. It’s quite brazen, and cynical.

I would argue that the city should give up the notion that the informal sector needs controlling. It exists because there are certain economic needs that the formal economy cannot fulfil, and if it could, there would be no hawkers.

Most of Africa gets along just well with bustling, and completely uncontrolled, informal economies.

It is unfortunate to see commentators call on the city to continue applying this clean-sweep policy.

In City Press, Mondli Makhanya recognised it as a type of fascism, but advocated for it anyway.

“The leaders and administrators of Joburg, Durban and Pretoria allowed the central business districts to deteriorate very badly before devising and implementing rescue plans. Once the CBDs had been well run down, expensive revival projects were set in motion,” he wrote.

“Thankfully, this is working wonders in Joburg and it is possible that in the next two decades, this great city will again have CBD streets worthy of the good prices on the Monopoly game board. This will require some steadfastness in the face of some politically correct types who want to resist the city’s attempts to clean up grime in the inner city.”

The description of traders as “grime in the inner city” tells you everything. They are undesirables who are lowering the value of the real estate and ruining everything. Makhanya suggests that we follow the example of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, which is very “clean”. I would suggest that we do not want to follow the example of a country run by an increasingly despotic leader, who is very likelysponsoring the rebels contributing to an extreme humanitarian disaster today in the eastern Congo.

We chose a different route in South Africa. It says so right in our constitution. We chose to respect the rights and freedoms of all people — no matter how grubby — and to negotiate our shared spaces as one society. There is no place for a kind of fascism here.

Full article at:

[SERI press release] Informal Traders Appeal to Con Court


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:


Nomzamo Zondo, attorney at SERI: / 071 638 6304 / 011 356 5868

Hear me out while I make a case for a kind of fascism

From City Press
2 December 2013 10:00

First, let me indulge in some Gupta-esque name-dropping. The first name I will drop is that of Johannesburg. I know Johannesburg very well. It is the city I live in and love dearly.

The Big Book tells us that when the One Above created Earth, He took six days to complete his work of art. Then on the seventh day, He rested.

When He woke up on the eighth day, He had no idea what to do with His time. He thought long and hard about his next masterpiece and then, voila! a wonderful idea hit Him, He created Johannesburg. And that is how the magnificent city of Johannesburg – the most beautiful city on the planet – came to be.

Those among us who have not had the chance to appreciate this wonderful city should make an effort to brave the e-tolls and make their way here.

When they do get here, one of the things they will see are our jaw-dropping mine dunes, a unique spectre worthy of a place in the Wonders of the World publications.

The next name I will drop is Kigali, a city I only became acquainted with in the past 12 months.

The capital of Rwanda has got to be one of the star African cities of the future. It is arguably the cleanest and prettiest city in Africa and ranks among the tidiest in the world. It is also an ambitious city.

The vision of the Rwandan government is that in the next few decades, it should be known as the “Chicago of Africa”, complete with the skyscrapers and vibe that made the Windy City so famous.

But Rwanda’s government and the city’s governors are not sitting idly by and waiting for this to miraculously happen. They are working night and day to transform the city – which came to international attention as the epicentre of the 1994 genocide –into a classy, economic engine.

To do this, they have had to be hard and adopt some neo-fascist tactics. For the good of all.

The third and final name to drop is the city of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso where I happened to be this week. To illustrate the kind of city that Ouagadougou is, I will quote the words of a travel companion who, as we wound our way towards our central district hotel, turned to me and said: “I hope our guys don’t have this in mind when they say that Joburg is a world-class African city.”

I will not dwell on the state of Ouagadougou save to say that our double-headed Number 1 must be kept very far away from there or else he will have more tasteless things to say about Africans in Africa.

Kigali and Ouagadougou provide illustrations of what South Africa’s cities can achieve or can be reduced to.

Kigali is still a long way from resembling our major metros in terms of development and pulse, but it is catching up very fast.

Those who knew the city before and shortly after the 1994 genocide gush about the amazing progress it has made under the rule of the authoritarian Paul Kagame’s administration. And those who know Ouagadougou will talk about how it has either stood still or slid backwards.

South Africans are aware of how easy it is to lose good towns. You need only look at Mthatha – which was once the heartbeat of the northern part of the Eastern Cape – to appreciate this.

The town may have been stripped of its Bantustan capital status but this was no reason why it should have been allowed to lose its regional economic hub role. Its decline was largely due to poor administration, corruption and an absence of vision.

Ditto the central business districts of our main metropoles.

The leaders and administrators of Joburg, Durban and Pretoria allowed the central business districts to deteriorate very badly before devising and implementing rescue plans.

Once the CBDs had been well run down, expensive revival projects were set in motion.

Thankfully, this is working wonders in Joburg and it is possible that in the next two decades, this great city will again have CBD streets worthy of the good prices on the Monopoly game board.

This will require some steadfastness in the face of some politically correct types who want to resist the city’s attempts to clean up grime in the inner city.

The city government’s plan and action to create order in the informal trading environment has predictably drawn the ire of those who somehow think that disorder is sexy.

These proponents of grime will have us believe that tolerating the hawkers who clog pavements and leave behind tons of rubbish when they close “shop” at night is good for the city’s economy. They could not be more wrong. Chaotic pavement trading has been one of the main contributors to the decline of our main CBDs.

It is the road to Ouagadougou.

If we want our cities to go the way of Ouagadougou, then we should listen to the bleeding hearts who romanticise disorder.

But if we want our cities to remain ahead of a Kigali that will soon be breathing down our necks, then a little dose of Kagame-style fascism should be encouraged.

» Makhanya is editor at large

Hawkers shut down Joburg CBD

From News 24

2013-11-28 14:38

Johannesburg – Disgruntled hawkers in Johannesburg forced businesses in the CBD to close on Thursday.

The hawkers said they would not allow anyone to trade because the City of Johannesburg and the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg were not taking them seriously.

“We are hungry. How are we supposed to feed our families this Christmas? They must all close,” said vegetable vendor Dorcas Mlangeni.

Mlangeni said she had been trading along Kerk Street for over two years.

“We are losing income while officials get salaries and will have a good Christmas.”

They walked in groups and forced shopkeepers along Kerk, Small, and Bree streets to close their doors.

Those who did not adhere to the instructions had stones thrown at them.

A defiant shopkeeper on Kerk Street was kicked at and hit with sticks. He decided to oblige after a few of them tried to loot his shop.

The busy Small Street was also closed for business.

The SA Police Service and the Johannesburg metro police arrived minutes later as the shops remained closed.

On Wednesday, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled that the hawkers’ application to be allowed to trade again was not urgent.

The case was postponed to next year.


Full article at

Under attack at home and at work: Operation Clean Sweep and the dark side of urban regeneration

From The Daily Maverick


The City of Johannesburg wants to ‘sweep the city’ clean of informal traders. In the process, it is seeking to make lawful the kind of violence of which the Constitutional Court has repeatedly disapproved – forcing their targets out of jobs and homes in the process.

Ellen Dladla is a grandmother in her fifties. Just over a year ago she was evicted from her home in Saratoga Avenue, and now lives in a shelter run by the City of Johannesburg. Now the City wants to evict Ellen again. It says she has been in its shelter long enough and reckons that six months is all she should have taken to get on her feet and find her own accommodation. Ellen would very much like to find her own accommodation. Her problem is that, because of the City’s urban regeneration policies, the cheapest accommodation now available to her on the private market costs three times more than her income.

Another problem is that Ellen is an informal trader. She was a block leader of one of the areas cleared of all traders by the City six weeks ago. The City confiscated her goods, destroyed her stall and stopped her trading altogether. She used to earn R500 per month. Now she earns nothing.

The City’s recent brutal crack-down on inner city informal traders as part of its Operation Clean Sweep is being challenged in urgent court on Tuesday. This Mayoral initiative – aimed at ridding the streets of ‘crime and grime’ and ensuring a ‘safe, clean, law-abiding and healthy’ city by 2040 – amounts to little more than the near total exclusion of informal traders from the inner city. The City’s actions are in violation of its own informal trading policy and legal framework, not that it seems to care. In a series of raids the City and its by-law enforcers, the JMPD, have evicted traders from their sites (including those operating lawfully with municipal-issued smart cards or permits), confiscated goods and, in some instances, physically and verbally assaulted people.

In the wake of this turmoil, informal traders, like Ellen, have been robbed of their livelihoods. Many are desperate, with dependents to support and no means of income, with a month to go before Christmas.

The City’s illegal crackdown has shocked many. Yet, in truth, Operation Clean Sweep is far from an exception. It is simply another expression of the City’s dismissive and exclusionary approach to poor people living and working in the inner city. Operation Clean Sweep follows over ten years of evictions litigation and, most recently, a Draft By-Law on Problem Properties, which has made it clear that there is no place for the poor in the inner city of Johannesburg. While numerous inner city charters, plans, strategies and roadmaps have been drawn up over the years, very little has actually been done to address the housing needs of poor and low-income residents. Years of litigation and multiple progressive Constitutional Court judgments (such as Olivia Road and Blue Moonlight) have nudged the City to react proactively, however it has failed to develop a programmatic response to the provision of low-income accommodation in the inner city, or elsewhere for that matter.

The City has consistently refused to make appropriate provision for alternative accommodation to those evicted from bad buildings, unless litigation compels it to do so. Neither has it planned proactively for low-income housing options for those earning less than R3,500 per month, a large proportion of the city’s population for whom the market and the state do not cater. What little housing stock is provided at affordable rentals is quickly occupied. Vacancy rates in the inner city are incredibly low, at around 1%.

Instead the City is subjecting the city’s working poor to further attacks: ‘sweeping the city clean’ of its informal traders and developing by-laws that are unlikely to survive constitutional scrutiny because they seek to make lawful the kind of violence (police-led evictions without court orders, arrest and detention of poor people seeking to make a living) of which the Constitutional Court has repeatedly disapproved.

It is important to emphasise that the City chooses to do this. It is not forced to by funding constraints or capacity problems. Its anti-poor policies are intentional. The choice to prioritise the needs of rich property owners, over poor informal traders, security guards, domestic workers, cleaners, car guards and other working people, is deliberate.

We know this because, when the City chooses to do so, it can do better. In response to the Constitutional Court’s Olivia Road judgment, it relocated 600 people from dilapidated bad buildings to safe, liveable accommodation in two buildings in Hillbrow. Here tenants are given one room per family, with communal cooking and washing facilities, pay an affordable rental and can stay for as long as they need to. On the City’s own figures, this costs R1.5 million per building per year – about 0.04% of its annual budget surplus of approximately R4 billion. The City, if it chose, could house all those living in bad buildings in the inner city for around 16% of its annual budget surplus, without asking provincial and national government for any support at all.

However, instead of investigating ways to scale up this model and tackle the housing crisis innovatively, the City insists on providing temporary homeless shelters in which people are not permitted to live with their spouses and children and are locked out during the day. During their six month stay, people like Ellen are expected to miraculously increase their incomes by the nine or ten times necessary to afford accommodation on the private market. Those who fail in this task – that is, everybody – are branded lazy and are evicted anyway. Though, amazingly, the City does not think removing someone from a shelter requires an eviction order, even if the person would be homeless and on the street as a result. According to the City, the shelter does not constitute “a home” and is therefore not covered by the Constitution or applicable legislation like the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act.

Poverty and informality are inescapable realities of our cities. We should at the very least be finding ways to make these spaces work for all who inhabit them, rather than trying to airbrush the symptoms of poverty and unemployment out of the cityscape. This requires a responsive City that acknowledges its obligations and proactively provides for all income groups, on the streets and in their homes. Instead, the City is turning into a rogue organ of state, unconstrained by law, compassion or basic decency. DM

Michael Clark (@sparktheclark) is a legal researcher and Kate Tissington (@katetiss) is a senior researcher at SERI.

Full article at

Joburg’s informal traders vs. He Who Sweeps Clean

From the Daily Maverick

GREG NICOLSON, 27 NOV 2013 01:48

The South Gauteng High Court heard on Thursday that the City of Johannesburg has flouted its own rules during Operation Clean Sweep and left evicted informal traders destitute. The municipality’s lawyers wouldn’t deal with the meat of the case and continued their delaying tactics. Meanwhile, Clean Sweep is harming lives and the economy. By GREG NICOLSON.

Hundreds of traders gathered outside Johannesburg’s High Court in the morning as two cases were to be heard against the municipality. The Informal Traders Forum (ITF) and South African National Traders Association (Santra) both wanted an interdict against Operation Clean Sweep, which has put thousands of vendors out of work. The crowd of workers sang for their rights and waited eagerly to hear their fate ahead of the Christmas season. The court will determine whether they are able to buy their families presents, visit relatives, keep their homes and send their kids to school next year.

Thembeka Mathomane, 46, sold range of products in the streets around the Wanderers taxi rank, which was bustling with business but now is empty. “I was very, very affected,” she says of Mayor Parks Tau’s Clean Sweep. “Even now my stock is in my house. Some is rotting. What I am crying for is I don’t have a job. That was my job and paid for [my kids’] school fees.” Like many traders who were pushed off the streets, without any notice, she says, she walked around the city trying to sell what she could to get by. “When we were trying to sell like thieves the [JMPD] hit me with a sjambok.” She and her friends say the police refused to give them a receipt for the goods they confiscated, which breaches the law.

The aim of Tau’s Clean Sweep was to help reform what the municipality saw as lawlessness, filth and crime in the inner city. “Are we the rubbish as a people?” asks Mathomane’s friend. “They are calling us rubbish!” The ladies present the slips they paid to rent a trading stand, R100 a month, and the smart cards that show they are registered. They have since been through another verification process with the City but have not been allowed to return to work.

They will not be voting for the ANC in the next elections, they say. The rally was addressed by a number of political movements, including the Congress of the People, Economic Freedom Fighters and the Workers and Socialist Party.

Jones Mosime, 45, stood listening, holding aloft a copy of Nelson Mandela’sLong Walk to Freedom. Years ago, when he was unemployed, he started selling books on the street. A box of books from a neighbour made him R37 and he has sold books in central Johannesburg ever since. Mandela, says Mosime, helped South Africans achieve freedom, but told them they would have to work hard to make something of themselves. He says the municipality must recognise that traders, informal or formal, local or foreign, are providing for their families and the City must handle the issue with care. Mosime is angry that so many people were involved in the struggle against Apartheid, but those who were rewarded with political and government jobs have forgotten everyone else.

The municipality, meanwhile, has reached an agreement with some traders’ organisations. They are currently talking about guiding the relocation process and allocating stands. The City has consistently said it values the input informal traders have on the economy. But the problem with the current agreement, with only two of the informal traders’ organisations involved, is that many legal sellers will be excluded. The City’s current plans of verification and relocation only offer about half of the previous demarcated trading stalls.

The court hearing was delayed after the two applications against the municipality were combined. The key issue is whether the application is heard as a matter of urgency or whether it is added to the general roll and heard around March next year. Traders packed into the small courtroom, filling even the standing area and fanning themselves in the heat. Advocate Chris Georgiades for Santra, representing 1,200 registered and legal traders, argued that the municipality misled those on the streets. He said that when Clean Sweep began they were told they would temporarily be out of work while they were verified before they could return to the streets. Only later, when were they told certain areas demarcated for trading would no longer be permitted, they saw trading structures were demolished, and heard some legal traders would be relocated. He said his clients were not against cleaning up the city, but the City of Johannesburg completely flouted the Business Act and its own informal trading policies in the way it went about Clean Sweep.

“Our clients are destitute as a result of being moved,” he said, citing affidavits from informal traders who cannot pay rent or feed their families. Even the Constitution has been breached, said Kennedy.

The traders want a court order permitting those legally entitled to work on the streets to be able to continue selling. They want to be back in the spots they worked in. They want the structures they trade from rebuilt. If the City goes ahead with its plan, they want it to do so lawfully. “This is a crisis,” said Judge Ramarumo Monamo, who added that the case could have huge implications for Johannesburg.

Advocate Paul Kennedy for the ITF argued the matter has to be seen as urgent because although Clean Sweep started around October, the municipality’s plans were not informed to the traders until around 7 November. In fact, he said, no plan has been furnished from the City on what it actually intended to do with the traders. Early this month, it was considering making a plan, but was so vague on details to suggest it simply cleared the streets without considering at all what to do next with the sellers who had legal permits. The municipality had misled his clients and dragged out the process as long as possible, he said.

Advocate Gcina Malindi represented the respondents and decided not to respond to the real issues. Instead, in a sleepy speech, he argued the technicalities of urgency. He said the traders had ample time to launch a court action since the effects of Clean Sweep were being felt in October. They were simply trying to waste the court’s time, he argued, and even asked the traders to pay the municipality’s legal costs, a request Judge Monamo responded to by saying the traders have no money. “If the older people can do something wrong then the younger people will follow because they learn from that,” the judge advised.

Malindi said that the traders are out of work is nothing new in South Africa. “There can never be an appropriate time to act,” he counselled. If it’s not at Christmas time, it will be when children are starting school.

Outside the court, hundreds of informal traders waited for a decision on their livelihoods. What happened? We just want to return to work, they said. But judgment was reserved in the matter, without a date for delivery. Lawyers hope it will come today.

The effects of Clean Sweep, however, continue. Daily Maverick witnessed burly security guards, not police, confiscating belts and wallets from an informal trader. They then harassed a woman selling peanuts from a bucket. A young man selling cigarettes nearby kept his stock in a drain to avoid confiscation. Last week Friday, JMPD officers allegedly assaulted and arrested a female trader for taking pictures of their heavy-handed approach. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), which is representing her case, calls her “Belinda”. “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.

Young men were still trading around the corner from the High Court, selling DVDs, socks, and other paraphernalia. In a city like Johannesburg, a hub of migrants from the continent and country, with everyone looking to make a living, it’s unlikely Clean Sweep will stop informal trading or even illegal trading. What it has done is put honest, hardworking people out of a job and opened up the streets to those who are brave or fast enough to take on the cops.

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