Media release: Informal traders gather in defiance of Lockdown ahead of civil disobedience campaign.

Media release
10 May 2020

What’s happening:
Street traders associated with the South African Traders and Retailers Alliance (SANTRA), assisted by the Free Market Foundation (FMF), will meet on the streets of Johannesburg in defiance of lockdown regulations.

Informal traders face starvation as their livelihoods are threatened by unjust and irrational regulations.

When and where: 
Meeting at 10am on Monday 11 May 2020 at the corner of Bree and Sauer Streets, Johannesburg to decide whether to embark on campaign of civil disobedience.

- Members of the media are encouraged to attend and cover this important decision - 

Johannesburg faces civil disobedience from informal traders.

Street traders associated with the South African Traders and Retailers Alliance (SANTRA), assisted by the Free Market Foundation (FMF), will meet in defiance of lockdown regulations at 10am on Monday 11 May at the corner of Bree and Sauer Streets, Johannesburg, to decide whether to embark on a campaign of civil disobedience.

In a joint statement SANTRA's Livingston Mantanga and the FMF's Leon Louw said that traders were initially persuaded by SANTRA to observe the 21-day lockdown, but that cannot endure any longer.

The government and the Johannesburg City Council promised relief comprising food and money. They have received neither. Furthermore, the Council is allowing other approved food vendors to operate, but not the bulk of traders, including "mammas" who sell cooked food, and others who sell other essential products. This is morally wrong and causing great hardship for informal traders and their dependents.

Particularly objectionable is that their traditional spaces are being invaded by new traders who have been given preferential permits. This puts the traders long-term livelihoods at risk.

Even where traders are allowed to return, their customers are being kept off the streets. Throughout the period supermarkets have been free to capture their traditional passing customers.

On Monday, they will decide whether to start defying manifestly unjust and irrational regulations, and face whatever oppressive behaviour confronts them. Many are literally starving.

The Council is issuing permits to selected fruit and vegetable vendors, many of whom, are saying that is their trade despite neither having sold those products before or not having done so in the spaces they are invading. Louw said, "We ask why? And who is making these arbitrary decisions? Based on what criteria? Many street traders and their families are struggling to survive".

Mantanga and Louw call upon the government to stop damaging informal trade and peoples' lives by discriminating against the poorest of the poor, to scrap the apartheid-style permit system, and grant permits to all vendors immediately. They should adopt a positive approach of getting police and soldiers to hand out masks and disinfectant, and explain safe behaviour to innocent civilians instead of oppressing them. 

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