South Africa – Cape Town zoning schemes and By-laws challenged in the Informal Sector

A Coalition of organisations has been formed to challenge the City of Cape Town, on its recently promulgated By-Laws that seeks to unify the fragmented multiple zoning schemes under one single zoning scheme. The coalition consists of the following organisations: Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition, the Somali Association of South Africa, COSATU Western Cape, PASSOP, the National Consumer Forum, the South African Council of Churches, the Scalibrini Foundation and the Legal Resources Centre.

The Coalition believes that despite the preamble of the By-Laws stating that the intention of the By-Laws is stimulate the jobs in the informal sector and make trading easier, the application of the provisions of this By Law will have the opposite effect.

The Coalition estimates that up to 70% of existing SPAZA shops in the greater Cape Town municipality will have to close because they will not be able to meet the stringent requirements.

The most harmful of these provisions is section 5.2.3 which require that there should be a separate structure for trading, and that no area used for trading should open into a bedroom or toilet. These provisions clearly targets the most vulnerable of subsistence traders who reside in one roomed RDP houses and one roomed shacks in informal settlements and are therefore automatically disqualified from trading.

The restrictive trading hours will have a dramatic impact on consumers who rely on Spaza Shops for their daily essentials with residents having to commute to formal shopping malls at night and on Sundays to purchase a loaf of bread. The restricted trading hours is of further concern in that many formal shops in residential areas are trading for 24 hours especially forecourt convenience stores, but these shops charge a premium which impoverished consumers cannot afford.

The Coalition has asked the City to place a moratorium on the implementation of these By-Laws to allow for further consultation and broader participation. The Coalition contends that there was insufficient stakeholder participation and that these By-Laws are being implemented without due process and without sufficient dissemination of the new requirements to those directly affected.

The position of the City that there is no longer an opportunity for dialogue and that the consultation process exceeded the statutory requirements is a point of dispute as no correspondence about the implementation of the impeding by-laws were received by any of the recognised Informal Traders representative organisation.

The Coalition wishes to draw attention to the social impact these regulations will have on the informal and formal economy with many poor families being left disempowered and the supply chain upstream already in economic crises, further job losses especially in the wholesale industry being inevitable. With unemployment on the Cape Flats hovering at 40 percent is it morally defensible to penalise those in our communities who display the entrepreneurial initiative to fend for themselves and create more jobs in the informal economy.

The question may be asked whether these By-Laws were designed to benefit the Corporate Retailers who are increasingly encroaching on the townships with the proliferation of shopping malls. Are these unrealistic and unjustifiable requirements placed on SPAZA shops a disguised attempt to eliminate competition for Big Business especially Corporate Retailers, who are the stated preferred constituency of the political party ruling the City at the moment.

The criminalising of the informal sector has severe implications for law enforcement agencies with their focus changing from real crime to the enforcement of ridiculous by-laws. The renewed harassment of informal traders by the police and city officials results in a breakdown of trust and makes informal traders especially vulnerable to criminal elements who extort “taxes” and victimise them without them being able to rely on the police for protection due to the police being seen as part of an oppressive system.

The Coalition wishes to raise the plight of the informal sector in the public domain in order to get support for our call for further consultation and a moratorium on the implementation of the provisions in these By-Laws that have direct impact on the sector. Our appeal is for the respect of Democratic principles of full stakeholder participation and mutual consultation with those directly affected.

We withhold our right to challenge these bylaws in Court should the City continue refuse to engage us in a meaningful discussion and commit to resolve this matter in an amenable and amicable fashion.

OUR SLOGAN REMAINS: NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!!!

Issued by:

The Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition

Riedewaan Charles
The Somali Association of South Africa

Abdul Kader
The National Consumer Forum

Imraahn Mukaddam 0737946092
COSATU Western Cape

Mike Louw
PASSOP

Braam Hanekom
The South African Council of Churches

The Legal Resources Centre

William Keerfoot
The Scalibrini Foundation

Yours in the Struggle for Consumer Rights and Social Justice