Joburg informal traders hoping newly-approved policy will help regulate the industry

Joburg informal traders hoping newly-approved policy will help regulate the industry

Informal traders in Johannesburg are hoping that the city’s newly-approved Informal Trading Policy will help regulate the industry, which they say is pervaded by foreign nationals, who are squeezing them out of business.

The policy, which was adopted by the City of Joburg council on Tuesday, will among others review the demarcation areas for traders, introduce a new digital permit system, and ensure transparency in the allocation of stalls to curb corruption.

Lulama Mali has been an informal trader in the Johannesburg CBD for more than 20 years. She says informal trading is unregulated and there is now increased competition between South African traders and foreign nationals.

Mali, who is also the Chairperson of the Johannesburg Informal Traders Platform, says there are too many informal traders in the city, majority of whom are foreign nationals, selling the same goods and cannot make any money.

“We have been telling them that 90% of the people sitting here are not South Africans. We are just 10%. They have over numbered us many years ago (sic). So, we are no longer making money. For instance, like that lady there, she is selling vegetables. You may find that there will come a trolley with vegetables, somebody moving around selling the same stuff that she is selling. So, this needs a lot of control.”

Johannesburg’s Informal Trading Policy, which has been in the making before 2013, was adopted by council on Tuesday and now becomes law.

Johannesburg’s MMC for Economic Development councillor Nkuli Mbundu says there’s currently about 8 100 trading spaces across the city. He says all traders within the City of Johannesburg would have to re-apply for trading permits.

“Why we are doing it digitally is that we do not want for the permits to be forged. So, when you come in to apply, we take your fingerprints, we take a photo of you, we authenticate with Home Affairs. And when the permit is issued, the card has a barcode that links to the central database with your original identification details. So that when JMPD does by-law enforcement they can scan your card.”

He says even though the Immigration Act allows for asylum seekers who might have fled their countries of origin due to a number of reasons to trade. However, they will prioritise South African traders.

“We want to follow the Immigration Act to the tee. We want to follow out Constitution to the tee, we will not violate that. But it is improbable that in a city of 6-million people you have 90% asylum seekers in the informal trade. When we talk about prioritising, we have to look back at the existing leases, they have expired, that we issued of life-long traders, validate that base, in order for us to re-issue those permits.

There are about 4 000 of those and then it opens us a space for another 4100 over time as we spread into the regions. And it is in there where we say let’s prioritise our people. We are unapologetic about the fact that our youth people are out of employment. But we do not seek to succumb to the narrative of Xenophobia, I think it is old and tired.”

He says the objective is to reduce the sprawl within the city and ensure there is one trader for one stall.

Mali says they hope the new informal traders policy will help small business people like her to grow their businesses.

The policy is expected to be rolled out within the next six-month.

This will in the meantime allow for the appointment of a project office to undertake the plan, testing and issuing of the permits, and setting up stakeholder forums.

The current trading permits have expired and will now be extended by another six month to allow informal traders to continue to trade.

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