Constitutional Court Rules that Street Traders in Johannesburg Can Return to Work.

Date: 11 December, 2013

In October 2013, thousands of Johannesburg informal traders were surprised by a large-scale city initiative to remove all informal traders from the city’s business district (CBD) – regardless of whether the traders had permission to trade or not. Traders were forcibly removed with little or no warning, and their goods were confiscated. First-hand accounts also reported assaults on traders by city officials.

As a result of this “Clean Sweep” initiative, as many as 6000 traders* (and an estimated 30,000 dependents) were left without a source of income for rent, food, transportation and school-related expenses. Impassioned pleas from traders, support organizations and city residents regarding injustice to the traders and their families went unanswered.

After several weeks, the situation deteriorated further. Traders had hoped that the courts would force the city to resolve the untenable situation quickly. But in a surprise ruling on November 27th, the urgent application to the South Gauteng High Court to allow traders to work until a legal ruling could be made on the City’s actions - was denied. The situation was becoming increasingly dire as many traders did not have alternative sources of income and the city had not informed them of when or where they would be able return to their work.

In a statement released by South African National Traders’ Retail Alliance (SANTRA) in response to the ruling, they stated “The situation on the ground is becoming increasingly volatile as hungry people are beginning to adopt a nothing-to-lose attitude.”

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) who represented over 1200 informal traders with the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF), issued a press release 2nd December, 2013 stating that they had applied to the Constitutional Court for permission to have the High Court ruling appealed.

On 5th December, 2013 the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the traders stating that traders represented in the case could return to work until the full case against the city of Johannesburg can be tried at court. Read the Constitutional Court order.

* SANTRA estimates that as many as 6000 vendors and 30,000 dependents were impacted by this city initiative.

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