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Tuesday Nov 19, 2013

Jozi street traders ask court to halt 'clean sweep'

The South Gauteng High Court is expected to hear today an urgent application by the SA National Traders Retail Alliance (Santra) to interdict the City of Johannesburg from barring street traders from carrying out their business in the inner city.

Edmund Elias, a spokesman for Santra, said Johannesburg had tried to arrange a meeting with his organisation yesterday, but it was already too late.

The City of Johannesburg embarked on a 'clean sweep' programme on October 1 and closed down the stalls of informal traders in the central business district (CBD). Some were demolished in the campaign against grime and crime.

However, Elias hit back on Friday, calling the 'clean sweep' programme a blatant mayoral anti-poor campaign.

On Friday, Santra said an old lady already verified as 'legal' and desperate to make a few rand was confronted by mayor Park Tau's 'clean-up troopers', while she tried to sell popcorn from her designated space. The organisation's leadership confronted the officers and they let her go.

Sapa reported that the Workers and Socialist Party said yesterday that the Johannesburg metro police had been demanding bribes of as much as R5 000 a week from the street traders.

The metro police department said it was unaware of the allegations. A formal complaint should be lodged so it could be investigated.

Elias said there was no grime and crime in managed zones and demarcated areas.

Nthatisi Modingoane, a spokesman for the city, said on Friday that the process of verifying informal traders who were licensed to have stalls in demarcated areas and managed zones was continuing. So far, 23 streets had been completed.

'We are now doing physical checks in places that are available for street trading. We know there will be an overflow. We anticipate that if everything goes according to plan, some vendors will be back in their stalls by the middle of the week,' he said.

Modingoane said the verification process was done in conjunction with the Department of Home Affairs. This led to some hawkers being arrested on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.

Two weeks ago the City of Johannesburg said the process had revealed that out of 8 000 people hawking on the streets, only 800 had valid permits.

The City of Johannesburg said last month that the initiative sought to address challenges that were experienced in the CBD, including illegal trading; illegal dumping and littering; land and building invasions and other by-law contraventions; illegal connection of infrastructure, including theft of electricity; and a lack of a sense of civic pride and ownership.

Cosatu said the informal trading fiasco was rapidly worsening because the agreement reached between trader leaders and city officials last week had been broken. The agreement stated that immediately on verification of traders in the five identified streets they would return to trade, which had not happened.

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