Court dismisses City case against trader

Traders operating from municipal trading bays in front of the Shoprite Shopping Centre in Kuils River claim to still be getting fines despite a presidential waiver on traders’ expired permits.

The Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court has dismissed the City’s case against a Kuils River trader whom the authorities had charged for operating with an expired permit.

Ettiene Gideons was represented by the South African Informal Traders’ Alliance (Saita) on Tuesday March 1. The case was dismissed in “less than seven minutes”, according to Saita national director Paul Bester.

Despite a waiver by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in August 2020, that allowed trading permits for informal vendors to be relaxed, the City still confiscated Mr Gideons’s stall and products during a raid on January 14, according to a City-issued notice to appear in court.

Though the waiver still stands and expires in December 2022, One Org., an umbrella organisation for two Kuils River traders’ formations, says the City has continued slapping them with fines.

In an unsigned response to questions from Northern News, the City said it was constitutionally mandated to see to it public spaces were managed sustainably, and so City Law enforcement officers were “duty-bound” to check “permits are kept up to date where it is reasonably possible” to do so.

The City did not respond to a query about whether it was aware of the presidential waiver.

Mr Gideons sells fruit and vegetables, dairy products, chips, sweets, cold drinks, cigarettes and other tobacco products. He did not immediately respond to questions.

Mr Bester said: “The City of Cape Town, and all other municipalities, must recognise that trade-permit waiver is in place until December 2022 and must not harass informal traders.

“This is a victory for all informal traders and a strong warning to the City of Cape Town officials, and all municipalities across the country, that President Ramaphosa’s waiver of permit requirements until December 2022 are valid and override local by-laws.”

Mr Bester said the City had deviated from Mr Ramaphosa’s directive and instead, on January 6 this year, had issued a regulation that lapsed permits would not need to be renewed until June 30 this year, but the authorities had also ignored their own regulation by raiding Mr Gideons.

“Despite this regulation, informal traders continue to be fined and harassed for expired permits by the City’s law enforcement,” Mr Bester said.

“The president (in his State of the Nation Address) acknowledged how crippling red tape is for business, especially informal and micro businesses, as has the City of Cape Town on numerous occasions.”

One Org. secretary Isaac Jenecke said most, if not all, traders had stopped paying for permits “when they realised the stupidity” around the City’s insistence for payments. He said the few who paid feared eviction.

“Most of us have expired permits since lockdown,” Mr Jenecke said. He criticised the City’s trading-bay markings, saying some traders paid more but got designated bays that were the same size as those who paid less.