Joburg traders head for ConCourt

2013-12-02 14:07

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The displaced street traders of Johannesburg today appealed straight to the Constitutional Court after the South Gauteng High Court last week struck their battle with the City of Johannesburg off the urgent court roll.

In the papers filed at the Constitutional Court this morning, the traders’ attorney, Nomzama Zondo of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri), calls the decision “a gross misdirection”.

The 1?211 traders Seri represents are simultaneously appealing the high court decision, which they say effectively denies them their constitutional right to access the courts.

Judge Ramarumo Monama on Wednesday declined to provide any reasons for declaring the application not urgent, and Seri has also written a letter demanding reasons, Zondo says in her affidavit.

If the traders’ case against the city is left on the normal high court roll, Seri claims it would most likely only be heard in May next year.

At that time it will be pointless as the traders would have been banned from trading for half a year and rendered destitute.

“The right of access to court has effectively been rendered nugatory,” says Zondo.

In the papers she admits seeking an urgent hearing in the Constitutional Court is highly unusual and hard to get.

“However, the present case is extraordinarily unusual and constitutes such a palpable denial of access to court with such resultant irreparable harm, that I submit that this court is both entitled and should deal with the matter.”

The traders are asking the Constitutional Court the same thing they asked the high court – an interim order that the legal and registered traders be allowed back to their previously allocated trading stands until Operation Clean Sweep can be properly reviewed in the high court.

Although the relief requested extends beyond the 1?211 traders represented by Seri, it also only affects a minority of the up to 8?000 traders who are estimated to have been removed from Joburg’s inner city during October as part of Clean Sweep.

According to the city, 2?535 traders came through for reverification early in November.

It claims only 1?100 traders could be found in its databases.

In a press release last week, the city further said 340 of the 2?535 were “not approved” by the department of home affairs.

The city has, however, not yet made any replies to the traders’ arguments in court or denied that any of the 1?211 in this case are legal in any sense.

The traders’ case hinges on Clean Sweep’s “unlawful” removal of both legal and illegal traders and the apparent decision to only let the legal ones return to the city later – and only to new designated sposts their organisations have called “uneconomical”.

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