Informal traders are a vital part of the provincial and national economy, Gauteng economic development MEC Lebogang Maile said on Sunday. "We might want to consider the disingenuous separation of the informal economy from the formal economy," he said.
"The informal sector is one that is largely survivalist and thus mirrors the vast challenges that face our economy." The formal and informal economies had complex links, making them interdependent. Informal traders were significant consumers of formalised businesses’ goods and services. Maile was speaking at a workshop bringing together municipalities and informal traders’ associations in Gauteng. The purpose of the workshop was to find permanent solutions to problems hawkers have to contend with.
Maile said that the department of trade and industry estimated that 90 percent of formal small businesses were white-owned, while 90 percent of black-owned businesses were informal. The informal economy was also a "safety net" for migrants until they could find formal employment. "While the nature of the sector makes accurate quantification an extremely tricky exercise, we can assert without doubt that this sector has a very prominent role in the economy of Gauteng," Maile said. Around two million people in Gauteng were believed to be employed in the informal economy. "The improvement of the conditions and circumstances of informal traders in this province is a pivotal aspect of the agenda to radically transform Gauteng and its economy". It stands to reason that we cannot speak of an inclusive and radically transformed economy to the exclusion of informal traders, who are among the most marginalised workers and entrepreneurs in the province," Maile said. Street traders and municipalities have had their differences in recent years.
Informal traders took the City of Johannesburg to the High Court in Johannesburg after being removed from their trading posts last year. The municipality removed all street vendors, including those legally entitled to trade, as part of its "operation clean sweep". The traders were invited to participate in a verification process. Irate hawkers wanted to be allowed back to their spots and wanted a review of the city’s conduct. The high court refused to grant the traders an interim order and struck the matter off the roll for lack of urgency.
The Constitutional Court in April allowed the informal traders to return to their inner city stalls. The court interdicted the city and its metro police from interfering with them. – Sapa (South African Press Association)