‘Convenient’ to remove lawful traders in Op Clean Sweep

The City of Jo'burg has admitted that lawful informal traders were removed along with alleged illegal traders during the city's controversial "Operation Clean Sweep", currently before the Constitutional Court.

Counsel for the city argued on Thursday that it was "convenient" for the city to remove both categories of traders, so that it could establish which traders were trading illegally.

Deputy chief justice Dikgang Mosekene intervened: "Did counsel really just say 'convenient'? … Can we just stick to what was lawful, not what was convenient."

The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and the South African National Traders Retail Association (Santra) approached the court on Thursday, seeking leave to appeal against a high court judgment that ruled their application for relief from Operation Clean Sweep was not urgent.

The applicants told the Constitutional Court that their main relief application would not be heard in the high court before February, by which time "irreparable" harm would have been caused to the thousands of traders who have been evicted from the inner city.


They want to be allowed to return to their trading stalls until their main relief application is heard.

Intervention
But the city argued that the court should not intervene. The city argued that any prejudice against the traders was temporary, and would only last as long as it took to verify the traders operating legally.

Paul Kennedy, SC, for the SAITF, argued that although it was unusual for the Constitutional Court to intervene in a case such as this, the circumstances were exceptional, and it was not unlawful or improper for the court to do so.

In its application, the SAITF argued that the applicants were trading "lawfully, peacefully and with the [city's] consent" until they were evicted and had their goods confiscated by the city and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) during October 2013.

"They [the city] say the clean sweep is necessary to deal with illegal traders, but the respondents have never suggested that any of the traders in this application were trading illegally.

"Indeed, Operation Clean Sweep made no attempt whatsoever to distinguish between the traders, who have always been doing business legally, and other informal traders who may not have been."

'Extensive' negotiations
The traders say that, after "extensive" negotiations with the city, they agreed to a process of "verification", when all the traders would re-register as lawful traders. They would then be allowed to return to their stalls.

The traders say they re-registered themselves, as agreed, during the week of November 4, but when they tried to return to their stalls, they were assaulted by JMPD officers, who also dismantled their stalls.

Now the city has told the traders that it wants to "relocate" the traders, but the traders say the city has not complied with any of the requirements in section 6A of the Business Act, which says that the city must consult before informal traders are relocated.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

Related stories

Not all of Jo’burg’s street traders can sell their wares under lockdown

Street traders are central to food security in Johannesburg. But since being declared an essential service under lockdown, street trade in South Africa’s biggest city has returned to uneven ground

Covid-19: ‘Unemployment benefits will not be extended to the informal sector’

Almost three million workers are not covered by measures implemented by the department of employment and labour to lessen the economic effects of the coronavirus

The informal economy is necessary to deal with the unemployment crisis

It is more connected to the broader economy than we realise and should be supported

Kigali’s trade-off: Sell and be arrested or starve

At first glimpse, Rwanda’s capital is a model African city: clean, organised, beautiful. But behind the gleaming facade, not all is well

Used clothing industry oils the informal economy

Johannesburg’s hub of second-hand garment traders - run under the leadership of the African Traders Organisation - woos trendy and indigent customers.

Home Affairs is on the up

But the thriving informal economy situated near the department’s Marabastad offices is now feeling the pinch, thanks to its increased efficiency.
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday