The South African informal economy accounts for 17% of employment. Street trading is the largest. Street traders are scattered around the many corners of the country’s towns and cities. They sell a vast range of products.
Despite the significant role they play in economic and social development, street traders continue to be harassed by municipal officials. They face sustained forceful evictions, incessant confiscation of their goods, and the soliciting of bribes by police officials. These actions are indicative of the repressive relationship between the street traders and local government in South Africa.
The justification is often that street trading is unruly, chaotic, and disruptive, driving municipal authorities to forcefully remove and relocate street traders.
The issue has ended up before the country’s courts, including the Constitutional Court. The cases have included the unlawful confiscation of goods belonging to traders, the removal of street traders from their stalls and their arrest. But as the Constitutional Court has pointed out the ability of people to earn money and support themselves and their families is an important component of the right to human dignity.