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​​Roodepoort informal traders have called on the City of Johannesburg to review the by-laws regulating their businesses.

In heated exchanges with Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers at a workshop at the Roodepoort City Hall on Wednesday August 23, informal traders said the city’s by-laws were no different from “oppressive apartheid legislation”.

The workshop was also attended by officials from the Department of Home Affairs.

“It was during apartheid that we saw the police chasing and locking up our mothers and fathers for eking out a living. We never thought it would happen in a democratic dispensation, but unfortunately it is,” said fruit trader Tiger Khumalo.

According to Khumalo, JMPD officers often raid informal traders and confiscate their stock.
“The stock is often bought using social-grant money. The stock that cost gogo Mchunu R200 is seized by JMPD officers for a petty crime, such trading in an undesignated area. Now, for gogo Mchunu to reclaim her stock, she will have to pay a R2 000 fine. Where does she get that kind of money from?” asked Khumalo.

JMPD officers said if informal traders felt hard done by they should approach their respective ward councillors as they were in a position to influence change. “Our job is simply to enforce the by-laws, that’s all,” said one of the officers.

The City’s trading policy defines informal trading as the sale of goods by individuals and/or groups in areas designated for such businesses.

JMPD Senior Officer Walter Mbathane said informal traders continued to clash with JMPD officers and officials from the Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC), a City-owned entity tasked with regulating trade and transport facilities.

He encouraged informal traders to do business only in designated spaces.

But informal traders felt they should be allowed to sell their wares in areas of their own choosing.

Tshepiso Morapedi, a customer, said he believed relocating informal traders to places that were out of reach for many people would put them out of business.

Dikeledi Motaung, who works in the Roodepoort CBD, said she preferred buying her lunch from informal traders because their food “is affordable and of high quality”.

Khumalo called on the City, through the MTC and JMPD, to consult organisations representing informal traders’ interests when decisions affecting them were taken. He said he was of view that the City should invest in the informal trading sector to achieve its 5% economic growth target.

Mbathane said some informal traders had been allocated designated trading areas. “However, many fear that relocating them to areas they perceive as not accessible to their customers will limit their ability to make a profit,” he said.