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Informal Trading & Joburg: An introduction




On our facebook site, we posted a blog post written by Rhonda Douglas of wiego.org regarding the concept of an ‘inclusive city’. We have written quite extensively on inclusivity in Joburg under The Right to the City, and so found ourselves identifying quite strongly with her conception of an inclusive city.

Rhonda points out that key to an inclusive city is a real recognition of the role of informal street vendors. For her, “an inclusive city is one that values all people and their needs equally. It is one in which all residents – including the most marginalised of poor workers – have a representative voice in governance, planning, and budgeting processes, and have access to sustainable livelihoods, legal housing and affordable basic services such as water/sanitation and an electricity supply.”

Over the next few posts, we will be having a look at the City of Johannesburg’s by-laws relating to street trading, in an attempt to see how the City measures up to being a truly inclusive city.

Our conclusion is that the City is heavily biased against informal trade. It recognises the right to trade informally, but then puts in place a host of restrictions which favour formal trading, and make informal trading exceptionally difficult. These restrictions are not only an unjustifiable infringement of the right to trade freely in terms of section 22 of the South African Constitution, but are also impractical in that neither the general public nor informal traders themselves abide by the restrictive rules.

We think that the City’s informal trading by-laws are largely problematic, which we will be dealing with in the next posts.

But are we right? It is enormously easy to criticise public policy (which is what we are doing), but is there an argument that these restrictions need to be in place? Is it fair that informal traders do not pay tax on their earnings? Is it good for private, formal investment for a city to be ‘overrun’ with informal trade? We would greatly appreciate hearing your views on this and the next few posts.

This article originally appeared at Urban Joburg.




  • In light of the Informal Trading Summit cape town 2013 on the 20th of March, the City will have to seriously consider the legitimacy of the current by-laws that restrict trading in and around Cape Town. As you have noted the City is biased against Informal Trading and this causing HUGE conflict in the trading community and I feel the City is extremely short sighted in their approach. The current framework compiled by Ukukhula, in my opinion, is very suspect especially if one studies the history of by-laws and the repeals of by-laws that has now gotten the City to this point.

    I will be honest in my opinion the Informal Trading sector is in disarray. It has been VERY badly managed within the City of Cape Town and some VERY hard questions need to be addresses. I will be attending the summit on Wednesday and will hopefully be able to pose questions.