SERI launches claim for damage caused by "Operation Clean Sweep" in South Africa
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) launched on October 3 a damages claim worth R120 million on behalf of 1652 informal traders who were temporarily evicted from their places of business during “Operation Clean Sweep” three years ago. “Clean Sweep” saw the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department evict every informal trader working in and around the inner city in October 2013.
In an extraordinary urgent hearing, held on 5 December 2013, the Constitutional Court put an end to “Clean Sweep”, calling it an illegal act of “humiliation and degradation”. Since then, despite repeated demands, the City has neither apologised to the traders for the harm it caused, nor offered to compensate the traders for their losses. SERI has accordingly been instructed to turn once again to the courts for relief.
Each of the traders represented by SERI claims for the loss of their goods destroyed or illegally confiscated during “Clean Sweep” and for the injury to their dignity caused by their sudden and public eviction from their places of business. Many traders claim for the interest on expensive short-term loans they were required to take out during the weeks they could not earn a living through trade. The traders also ask that the City be directed to make a public written apology, to be published in a major newspaper circulating in Johannesburg.
Nomzamo Zondo, SERI’s director of litigation, who acts for the traders, said: “The City has never once sought to justify its brutal and humiliating eviction of Joburg’s informal traders, nor has it been prepared to do the decent thing and repair the damage it caused. The traders will now seek to vindicate their rights in court”.