Over 2 000 hawkers from Johannesburg have marched to the offices of the executive mayor, demanding they be allowed to trade on the streets again.
The hawkers marched to the offices of Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Mpho Parks Tau, calling for the right to trade in the city.
The protest was organised by the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp), South African Informal Trader's Forum (SAITF) and the African Trader's Committee (ATC) following a City of Johannesburg-led crackdown on informal traders.
The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) has been accused of confiscating items belonging to hawkers, and arresting and harassing others.
During the march on Thursday, the hawkers called for reinstatement to the street to continue their trade as well as the return of all their confiscated goods.
Economic Freedom Fighter's Lufuno Gororo called for the hawkers to defy the ban on street trading and to fight back when the police take their goods.
"Go back to the streets as one people – Africans. Africa belongs to Africans. The only foreigners are whites. We condemn this xenophobia, the targeting of our African brothers and sisters," he said to loud cheers.
Wasp spokesperson Mametlwe Sebei told the hawkers to defiantly go back to their stalls and continue their business as the city was unable to provide them with answers.
Mayor Parks Tau did not address the marchers as he was reportedly out of the office.
According to Nthatisi Modingoane, spokesperson of the City of Johannesburg, the City's "operation clean sweep" is an initiative supported by the department of public safety through Region F's integrated safety and security plan.
"The initiative seeks to address challenges that are experienced in the inner city, which include the following: illegal trading; illegal dumping and littering; land and building invasions and other by-law contraventions; illegal connection of infrastructure including theft of electricity and the lack of a sense of civic pride and ownership.
"Clean Sweep is a strategic intervention vehicle which seeks to tackle service delivery challenges in the inner city.
"It plays a supporting role to other citywide programmes like Integrated Service Delivery programme, Ward Based Planning and the Jo'burg Ten Plus where the Joburg Metro Police are concentrating on crime prevention, traffic policing as well as by-laws compliance in the each ward," Modingoane said.
He added that the City of Johannesburg acknowledged the relevance and contribution of informal trading to the economic and social life of Johannesburg hence "the City's political leadership will meet with the leadership from the informal trading sector later this week to address some of the sectors' concerns."
Nigerian-born Blessing Danger said the crackdown had left him without any income to pay the rent on his apartment in the city centre.
"I am now left with four days to pay my rent and I don't have enough money because we were removed from the streets and unable to sell our wares," Danger said during the march.