This article first appeared in the 28 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town's law enforcement unit has been lambasted for its ongoing harassment of informal traders who are making an honest living.
On Saturday, in what the traders have described as “chaos”, the City's law enforcement officers descended on Gatesville and cracked down on illegal traders, confiscating goods and issuing fines.
Trader Tasneem Omar, who has been trading in the Gatesville area for 13 years, said her daughter was verbally abused and threatened, and she was not given receipts for confiscated goods. Omar said it was the second time that law enforcement targeted her and she lost close to R10 000 on both occasions.
“I have been pushed up and down from the City offices and have been in the e-services portal for a long time, but they won't help me. I have been trading with a stall owner who had requested numerous times to take me as an assistant, which they also declined and instead threatened to take her permit away.
“I feel like a failure as a mother because I can’t provide for my family and feel violated as a human, especially because they can’t go to places like Nyanga Junction to enforce these by-laws. No one will reimburse me for the things that I lost, especially because there is no receipt,” she said.
Another trader, Joseph Kuum, who was fined R500 for trading in an undesignated area, said some defaulted on paying the fines as they were not making enough money.
South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) president Rosheda Muller said a complaint was received on Saturday and they had engaged with the City.
“This ongoing harassment is of great concern. We know there are rules and regulations but people’s survival is on the line. The manner in which they deal with the informal traders is inhumane, they do not treat them with dignity.
“Law enforcement needs to be educated with regard to handling informal traders in respect of administrative justice. These traders have rights and the officers have no right to just confiscate and need a court order to do so, but this and the harassment is continuing. A trader is not on the street by desire but to be able to survive,” she said.
Muller said things occurred despite the trading permit relief for informal traders issued by the City until the end of December.
“This incident occurred following a summit with Mayco member James Vos, where we agreed to working in partnership with the City. We will discuss this further with Vos and try to come up with a resolution that will conform to do no harm and discuss the manner in which the traders are dealt with,” she said.
Muller said the biggest means of job creation was through informal trading and the sector was assisting the government in mediating unemployment and poverty. She said when such incidents happened people were pushed back to the unemployment list.
Safety and security Mayco member JP Smith said on Saturday that the City conducted a multi-departmental operation to address criminal activity, improve safety and also respond to numerous complaints of illegal trading in Gatesville.
He said the goods of four illegal traders were impounded and three traders were fined for ignoring compliance notices previously served on them, while nine individuals were fined for not having trading permits and three for trading at bus benches.
Smith said one woman was also arrested for damage to City property after she allegedly damaged a vehicle with an iron bar and bricks.
“The City supports the right of residents to make a living, and has in recent years committed to a number of concessions for informal traders, particularly to soften the economic impact of Covid-19. However, traders are required to have permits and the City is duty-bound to ensure that everyone complies with the law.