A vegetable seller waits for customers at Bara taxi rank in Soweto during the nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in South Africa. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
A vegetable seller waits for customers at Bara taxi rank in Soweto during the nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in South Africa. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Informal traders tell of battle to get lockdown trading permits

By Manyane Manyane Time of article published Apr 26, 2020

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Desperate informal traders have appealed to the government to allow them to resume their businesses, saying the Covid-19 lockdown had hit them hard in their pockets.

They told the Sunday Independent this week they were still battling to get trading permits from various ward councillors and municipalities.

Earlier this month Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced that informal traders were free to resume their economic activities but needed to get a permit from their ward councillors or their municipality. Informal traders can sell food products, excluding the sale of cooked hot food.

Insisting that their families had borne the brunt of the national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month in an attempt to flatten the curve of Covid-19, the traders said they had been left out of the government’s R500 billion stimulus package aimed at supporting businesses and ordinary South Africans.

“I am hoping to get a permit so I can try to survive. We were told to come here and get the permits for us to be able to operate. My friend told me that I have to come here,” said street vendor Isaac Khoza, who joined thousands of other shop owners queued outside the Diepkloof Empowerment Centre on Thursday to apply for permits.

He said he and many others had arrived at the venue in Soweto as early as 4am. Some had camped outside the venue overnight in a bid to be among the first in the queue.

The 39-year-old father of two said he was selling vegetables and fruit in Jabulani.

“I have lost a lot of money and I don’t want to think about it because it hurts me because my family is suffering. I didn’t buy them enough food,” said Khoza.

Standing next to Khoza was Walter Sinne, 40, who said he couldn’t afford rent and food for his family.

“The only way to make an income is to sell food on the streets. Even though there are no people on the streets, I am hoping to get something from one or two customers. The cents I will get will make a difference and I will be able to buy bread for my children,” said Sinne.

Sonto Moremi Maseko, 49, said she had been trying in vain to get a permit since Wednesday. “I have no food at home and I was hoping to get a permit on Wednesday.

"The line was very long and the officials knocked off at 3.30pm. Today I arrived at 6am but it seems like I won’t get it again, as you see the queue is long. I wish they could have taken our numbers so they can call those who came the day before,” Maseko said.

Thembelihle Msibi and Vusi Zwane shared Khoza, Maseko and Sinne’s sentiments. They added that they were struggling to feed their families and survived on their children’s social grants.

Joburg Metro Police Department spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said only 150 people would receive the permits. He added that street vendors and shop owners still needed to comply with the regulations.

“We can’t give it to everyone because people still need to comply and there must be control. In some places we will allow 20 of them, and less than 20 in other places,” Minnaar said. 

Minnaar’s comments were contradicted by City of Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane, who said he didn’t know how many permits would be supplied.

“This is because we are catering for traders who are on our database and those who are not,” he said. 

Asked how they would make sure that customers complied with the lockdown regulations, Modingoane said law enforcement officials on the ground would have to ensure that people adhered to the regulations despite the resumption of informal trading. 

The Sunday Independent

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