The City of Johannesburg continues to deny more than 6000 hawkers the right to make a living in Johannesburg CBD.
COSATU, SAMWU and African Diaspora Forum(ADF) together with street trade organisations which consisted of GIDA, JOWEDET, SANTRA, NIGERIAN TRADERS UNION, ETHOPIAN TRADERS UNION, BLOCK LEADERS and ESSET met on 28 October 2013 with the Joburg Metro. Roselyn Greeff (MMC Development Planning), Anthony Selepe (Chief of staff Mayor’s office) and Ruby Matang (MMC: Economic Development) formed part of the mayoral committee to discuss hawker’s demands to return to work. This was the first time that politicians accepted to meet with street traders since the beginning of the ‘clean sweep’ operation.
This crisis questions the level of community participation within the major decision making process. Traders are also calling for sustainable public space management, which is a responsibility of the city.
The following demands were made to the mayoral committee:
- Return of all legal traders: those with smart cards and those in demarcated areas should be given permission to go back to trade within 24 hours
- Confiscated goods by the JMPD should be given back to hawkers and compensation should be given in respect of missing goods and loss of income.
- Alternative trading areas should be allocated whilst the operation is continuing
- JMPD should stop violence toward street traders when executing their operation
- The city should open up unrestricted and prohibited areas, should provide demarcated areas and build stalls
- The MMC shall chair the Informal Traders Forum (not the current DED official)
- The city should negotiate all issues concerning street traders in the Forum in order to addres outstanding issues e.g. issuing smart cards
- The city should provide an office for the Forum at the city’s expense
- The city should train committees on by laws enforcement informal by law booklet
- The city should review special development including then city accord and role of hawkers including Jabulani
- Region ABCD must have its own forum including in other areas such as Soweto.
In response to these demands the city stated that “it was busy formulating a relocation plan” and until then the operation continues.
A disturbing element however casts a doubt on the city’s good faith, as an official document dated October 2012 and called ‘The Mayoral Clean Sweep” Inner City Initiative’, was distributed by protesters. Beyond the document’s name that speaks so crudely about the poor in the city almost as garbage, and that strongly reminds of Mugabe’s brutal tactics against the poor Operation Murambatsvina (Operation Drive Out Rubbish)’, it shows that this ‘sweep’ has been planned for a year already – and yet no ‘relocation plan’ has even started; no provision, no developmental solution, no dialogue and concentration with relevant stakeholders, in spite of the so called Informal traders Forum.
Johannesburg City’s ‘Operation Clean up’ of the poor started on 1 October 2013 without consultation and notice to street traders. The operation executed by the JMPD with a vision to expand across the city.
This has destroyed the only livelihood strategy for hawkers. This operation seems to be copying Rudi Juliano New York mayor’s zero tolerance cleanup of New York.
Street traders are not opposed to cleaning up of the JHB City. However, it is inappropriate for JHB City to copy and paste a developed country model in a developing country such as South Africa. Traders are being removed from managed areas like Kerk and Joubert streets where there are no complaints from the public, no grime, or obstructions.
Whilst the hawkers’ representative presented the demands, a cloud of more than 700 representatives set in the park opposite COSATU house desperately waiting for the feedback from the city but most importantly waiting to hear when they can go back to work.
Although the city has promised to return the stock violently confiscated by the metro police, little is known about how they are willing to compensate perishable good as well as those destroyed during the evacuation.
Without a warning or consultation from the city, this unlawful and unconstitutional operation by the city can be characterised as a shame for the post-apartheid supposedly pro-poor and pro-development government.
Whereas South African citizens should be preparing to celebrate 20 years of democracy, the ‘clean sweep’ operation of the City of Johannesburg is a shameful repetition of the “Forced Removals” practices, which were criticised under apartheid as the worst form of inhumane treatment. Observers have related this unlawful and violent act as “history repeating itself” as this violence is perpetrated against the marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable people like those who under apartheid regime had no chance to access education and do not have another alternative to make a living but trading in the street.
The only way forward the city proposed to hawkers’ representative was another meeting the working document to be sent on Wednesday October 30 and another consultation meeting is scheduled for Friday, November 1.
Meanwhile, more than 6000 evicted traders present a humanitarian crisis as these desperate families cannot provide food, pay rent or provide for more than 40 000 dependents.
Awaiting the city and Metro Police next drama, it is obvious that the City has become the official channel from which elitism has replaced racism.
We, the undersigned of this statement are displeased with manner in which the City is dealing with this issue and demand that the city allows the hawkers to trade with immediate effect.
Press Release Issued by
George Mahlangu, COSATU
Cell: 082 414 9024