“Let us pay rent for our stalls, so we can create jobs too,” a group of Rosebank Hawkers has told the City of Joburg.
Raids by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) on hawkers are costing traders thousand of rands in efforts to recover their impounded goods.
While the traders who spoke to our correspondent admitted that bylaws had to be respected, they accused the city of applying apartheid-era rules designed to keep the poor from doing business in cities.
According to JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar, they conduct daily raids on hawkers as part of Operation Buya Mthetho (bring back the law).
The operation is an effort by City of Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba to bolster municipal bylaws, as well as curbing inner city crime.
But this came at a major cost to hawkers who stood a good chance of losing their entire livelihood in a single raid – unless they forked out the R2 970 it costs to retrieve their impounded goods.
“The bylaws that we’re enforcing are related to illegal electrical connections, illegal water connection, illegal dumping and road traffic regulations,” said Minnaar.
A few weeks ago, three traders in Rosebank, Johannesburg, who had been selling their crafts on Jan Smuts Avenue since 2004, had their artworks impounded for the third time this year.
One of them, a 43-year-old sole breadwinner from Zimbabwe, complained that some of the raids had an element of xenophobia because officers would often say “these traders were ruining our country”.
This was despite the fact that he regularly employed South Africans who helped him with his beaded artworks.
“We aren’t taking anybody’s job because this is self-employment.”
Another hawker, 47, said laws should be made more flexible to encourage such businesses. “The city should give us permission to sell, then we can pay them to rent. If they can allow us to do that, we’ll do it.”
Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga, vying for the post of Gauteng premier in next year’s election, said the DA’s plan was to return the rule of law to provincial metros, contending that lawlessness was rife.