Jo’burg hawkers still face impasse with city

The Johannesburg regional office of the ANC has refused to participate in what was expected to be a last-minute attempt to resolve the impasse between the City of Johannesburg and 7 000 displaced street traders in the city

The meeting was organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and was meant to have taken place on Friday at the ANC regional offices.

South African National Traders Retail Alliance (Santra) chairperson Livingstone Mantanga said the meeting eventually did not take place because the ANC objected to having them part of the meeting.

"The ANC regional leaders indicated to George Mahlangu from Cosatu that they could not meet us as we were still dealing with the City on the impasse. They said they wanted to talk only to Cosatu as an alliance partner. For that reason the meeting could not take place," said Mantanga.

The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) intend to bring an application to the high court in Johannesburg to review the decision to forcibly remove them and thousands of other traders under the auspices of the City's "Operation Clean Sweep".

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 Johannesburg Metro Police permit them to return to trading at the locations they occupied prior to their removal. They also want be allowed to re-erect the stands that were removed by the City and the Johannesburg Metro Police (JMPD).

"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," said Nomzamo Zondo, attorney for the SAITF and the informal traders.

The inner city clean sweep operation seeks to address challenges such as illegal trading, dumping, littering, land and building invasions and other by-law contraventions, illegal connection of infrastructure including theft of electricity, and lack of a sense of civic pride and ownership.

On Monday, a small group of Economic Freedom Fighters announced they would march in the city in protest against the eviction of the hawkers.

Edmund Ellias, who speaks for the traders, said: "Hundreds of Hillbrow drug dealers trading openly on sidewalks have escaped the mayoral clean sweep of the poor. Illegal Hillbrow street traders were targeted on Sunday, yet well known drug hotspots were left untouched, [which is] further evidence that the mayor's total focus is on the poor. He regards selling apples to be a bigger crime than selling drugs."

Nthatisi Modingoane, the city's deputy director of communications, said they have managed to record a lot of improvement in the city since this operation.

"The City of Johannesburg is making progress with its programme because it seeks to create not only a habitable and safe inner city environment, but also an environment conducive for growth and development for all its inhabitants, businesses, residents, investors and all relevant stakeholder. The City of Johannesburg believes that it is well on track to realising the aspirations of the Jo'burg 2040 growth and development strategy by empowering communities to actively participate in determining the development priorities," said Modingoane.

He said they managed to impound 528 counterfeit goods, one bad building and arrested 192 illegal immigrants.

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