Informal Trading & Joburg: Part 3

By Urban Joburg

We continue our look at the City of Johannesburg’s by-laws on informal trading. In this post, we look at section 10 of the by-laws, relating to the conduct of informal traders.

Section 10 contains a host of restricted conduct which an informal trader may not engage in. These are so precise and complicated that the chances of it being 100% complied with are minimal. It attempts to control traders in a patronising manner, restricting freedoms rather than providing facilities for informal traders to ply their trade safely, cleanly and efficiently.

These restrictions include:

  • Not trading on a sidewalk where the width of such sidewalk is less than 3 metres; and
  • Not attaching his/her property to any building, structure, pavement, tree, parking meter, lamp, pole, electricity pole, telephone booth, post box, traffic sign, bench or any other street furniture in or on a public road road or public place.

We are not advocating a complete lack of restrictions on informal trade – just like one doesn’t find a complete lack of restrictions on formal trade – but the extent to which these restrictions extend is both impractical and too burdensome.

The restrictions also have the potential for abuse, allowing a city official to move an informal trader effectively and arbitrarily on a whim.

This happens – à la Operation Clean Sweep – but does the informal sector ever die or adapt to the above draconian rules? No they don’t, and the reason for this is that it is simply impossible and impractical to do so.

This article originally appeared at Urban Joburg.