FMF Media Statement on Johannesburg City Council’s Final Draft Informal Trading Policy

FMF Media Statement

27 July 2021

Street trade should not be regulated. This according to Free Market Foundation (FMF) Founder and President, Leon Louw, in his Submission to the City of Johannesburg (COJ) on its latest Draft Informal Trading Policy. The Submission proposes a Public Space Management Bylaw. The FMF offered to assist COJ with this adaptation.

Louw said that no one ever objects to the fact that traders trade. It is always something else. “They litter, obstruct sidewalks, harass motorists, don’t pay rent, help criminals, sell illicit products, and so on,” said Louw.

He continued, “If the objections are about behaviour other than trade, why regulate trade?  All other objections are already fully regulated by law”. There is no need to introduce specific regulations for street traders who are and should remain subject to precisely the same laws as everyone else. The Constitution requires laws of “general application” equally applicable to all.

The FMF Submission addresses side-walk traders, spaza owners, backyard enterprises and many more. Like builders leaving bricks or rubble on side-walks, restaurants or shops encroaching on side-walks, and all members of the public, vendors may not block or obstruct pedestrians. Like anyone else, they may not litter or spoil parks. No one may cause obstructions. Metro police need learn only one set of universally applicable laws.

The FMF Submission suggests that the Draft be tweaked into being a Public Space Management Bylaw which applies equally to everyone regardless of what they do. “In any event” says Louw, “discriminatory laws are unconstitutional”.

What should be stopped is “very simple,” he said, “no one should, for instance, be allowed to harass motorists.”

Praising the council’s work, Louw said, “The greatest thing about the Draft Policy is that the council has dedicated itself to work with and support informal traders as leading job creators and promoters of consumer interests. What this means is that, for instance, instead of fighting vendors and window washers at intersections, they could be taught the rules of the game. If they are polite and considerate, they are welcome. If they harass or obstruct, they get arrested”.

Traders might be given ID bibs for motorists to report misconduct.

Johannesburg is dedicated to taking the lead as “a city of opportunity where … residents gain access to the ladder of prosperity’. Louw called this, “Wonderful; the perfect way for the council to fulfil its mission is to treat traders as worthy citizens providing essential services to consumers, especially the poorest of the poor.” The Draft highlights the importance of this sector for job creation. Nothing should be done to discourage it.

The FMF has been at the forefront of informal sector policy for decades. “We have been closely associated with small and large SMME groups throughout the country, most notably with National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC), and African Council of Hawkers and Informal Business (ACHIB).” 

The FMF prepared its Submission in close consultation with them and various localised Johannesburg groups. “We have always worked closely with various councils, including Johannesburg. We initiated the Constitutional Court case for Johannesburg street traders a few years back, and were consulted by the JCC recently. We have attended many meetings with the JCC council over many years.”

FMF Offer to Johannesburg City Council

The FMF offers its decades of experience to the council to assist with the drafting of a policy on Public Space Management Bylaw, and on an on-going basis to turn vision into living reality.

The FMF also offers free metro police workshops on the application of bylaws and laws in general, and the Constitutional principle of general application.


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