South African Informal Traders Forum and Others v City of Johannesburg and Others; South African National Traders Retail Association and Others v City of Johannesburg and Others (Case CCT 173/13 & 174/13)
Appeal by informal traders in Johannesburg, South Africa of a high court’s dismissal of application for interim relief from a citywide program (Operation Clean Sweep) that bans their trading activities. Dismissal did not recognize the urgency of traders’ application. Removal from trading location prevents right to trade, traders have no means to earn a living until a decision on the lawfulness of Operation Clean Sweep is reached. Interim relief would allow workers to continue to trade until the high court was ready to hear arguments on the case.
Appeal of South Gauteng High Court’s dismissal of application for interim relief brought by South African Informal Traders Forum and South African National Traders Retail Association. Appellants cited their right to access to courts under Section 34 of the South African constitution as a basis of their appeal.
The original application for interim relief was a response to the decision in October 2013 to displace informal traders from the Central Business District of Johannesburg as part of “Operation Clean Sweep”, a citywide initiative to remove illegal traders. The applicants contend that they had the necessary authorization to trade and that they had been doing so for years. The applicants also stressed the urgency of their claim and the risk of irreparable harm, as their livelihood depended on their trade and they could not wait a year until the high court would hear arguments and rule upon the lawfulness of Operation Clean Sweep.
After hearing the appeal on an urgent basis the Constitutional Court issued an interim order prohibiting the City of Johannesburg and the Metropolitan Police Department from interfering with lawful informal traders’ right to dignity (Section 10, Constitution), which includes their rights to food and shelter. This interim order will remain in effect until a high court hears the appellants’ case sometime in 2014. 2163 traders received protection from the order. (South African Informal Traders Forum and Others v City of Johannesburg and Others; South African National Traders Retail Association and Others v City of Johannesburg and Others (Case CCT 173/13 & 174/13))
Some of the traders returned to their trading locations upon hearing of the Constitutional Court’s interdiction. However, the JMPD continued to interfere with traders and confiscate their goods in 2013, despite the Court’s interdiction. (No incidents happened though in the first three weeks of 2014.)
SERI represented 1211 traders and another 952 traders were represented by Routledge Modise.
We will share the Court decision as it becomes available.
Last updated on Jan. 23, 2014
The Constitutional Court’s intervention in the matters of a lower court is unusual. The Constitutional Court seldom entertains urgent applications let alone appeals. The traders were successfully able to communicate their right to access courts and trade and circumvent the authority of the South Gauteng High Court. The urgency of the appellants’ claim was sufficient cause as many depended upon their ability to trade in order to feed and support themselves and their families.
The application was heard within a week from when it was instituted, showing that “the Constitutional Court can stand in defence of the Constitution and South Africans when called to” (Nomzamo Zondo, SERI).