Street traders play a vital role in South Africa: how they can be protected

The South African informal economy represents 17% of occupation. Street trade is the largest and sells a wide range of products.

Despite the significant role they play in economic and social development, street traders are harassed by city officials. They face forced evictions, confiscation of their assets and solicitation of bribes by police officers. These actions are indicative of the repressive relationship between street traders and the local government.

the justification because this is often the case that street trade is unruly, chaotic and disruptive.

The matter ended up in the country’s courts, including the Constitutional Court. As the the constitutional court specifiedpeople’s ability to earn money and support themselves and their families is an important component of the right to human dignity.

We explored these issues in recent research on itinerant trade and local economic development in South Africa. We found that a mutual understanding relationship between street traders and local authorities would help promote local economic development. We argue that the informal sector is the hub of local economic development.

Local economic development it is a process by which municipal authorities, community-based organizations and local communities stimulate economic activity to create jobs. It implies the enhancement of the resources of a territory. These include human, asset and institutional resources.

The Constitution mandates Municipalities to guide local social and economic development. The mandate is realized in the White Paper on Local Government and the Municipal Systems Act.

This effectively orders municipalities to forge relationships that can help them improve the livelihoods of the local population. It also allows municipalities to use legislative and other means to create environments that allow formal and informal businesses to thrive.

Local economic development can be a tool for fostering the growth of local economies, job creation and poverty reduction. And street trading can undoubtedly help achieve these goals.

Street trade is widely regarded as a safety net against poverty.

The principle of constitutionalism states that the regulatory powers, duties and functions of municipalities are derived and even limited by the Constitution.

This means that all instruments such as statutes that municipalities use to regulate itinerant trade must comply with the Constitution. In practice, the conduct of every municipal official must always be informed by the Constitution.

But a review of some actions against street vendors in contradiction with the values, rights and duties enshrined in the Constitution. This has been confirmed by several judgments of the High Constitutional Court.

Constitutionalism suggests that city authorities must balance the development and application of regulatory tools such as municipal statutes or policies with the rights of street traders. These include the right to dignity, freedom of trade and employment, property rights, as well as access to information and the courts. These rights are all reinforced by the constitutional principles of legality, human dignity and equality.

Constitutionalism also requires that city authorities ensure that their powers and duties in regulating the informal sector are aligned with constitutional principles. These include legality and the rule of law.

Our research shows that there is merit in adopting a constitutional law approach to itinerant trade. The constitutional compass would allow the sector to thrive and thereby strengthen local economies.

For the authorities, the constitutional compass serves as a barometer for the conduct of officials.

It also requires that the development, implementation and application of local laws and policies follow a more humane approach, based on the values ​​of the Constitution. This requires a revision of rigid and insensitive local laws and policies that do not respect the human constitutional approach.

In our opinion, street traders would be guaranteed a series of constitutional rights if local authorities respected the dictates of the Constitution. This would improve their ability to trade and help promote local economic development.

On the other hand, street traders should abide by local laws and policies that are constitutionally compliant. This is in line with the governing powers of the municipalities. – The conversation

Nonhlanhla Ngcobo is a research fellow for the South African Research Chair and Anél du Plessis is the National Research Foundation’s South African Law Professor and Research Chair at North-West University. This is a modified version of an article first published in The conversation.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or official position of the Post and guardian.