Lockdown: Street vendor says she can now feed family of 17 under relaxed regulations

Mabopane street vendors Mary Shabalala and Josephine Mainetja have returned to work after the government announcement that traders selling essential, uncooked goods can operate during the lockdown. (Mosima Rafapa, GroundUp)
Mabopane street vendors Mary Shabalala and Josephine Mainetja have returned to work after the government announcement that traders selling essential, uncooked goods can operate during the lockdown. (Mosima Rafapa, GroundUp)

Since the government gave the green light on Thursday for informal traders to operate for the remainder of the lockdown, scores of vendors have rushed to reopen their stores. But many say there is still no clarity on which vendors are allowed to trade, GroundUp reports.

During an inter-ministerial briefing, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gave the green light for spaza shops and hawkers to only sell essential goods provided they get a permit from their ward councillors or municipality.

Previously, informal traders were not deemed essential workers and were prohibited from trading during the national lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19.

On Friday, a few hawkers and informal traders were seen at the busy Mabopane intermodal taxi and bus rank in Pretoria. This rank usually sees about 50 000 commuters weekly. While the number of passers-by has decreased since the lockdown, which started on 26 March, there is still considerable foot traffic.

Among the vendors was Mary Shabalala who supports a family of 17.

She said the relaxed lockdown regulation had come as a relief.

Shabalala lives in Hebron in the North West next to Mabopane and has been a hawker since 1983, joining hundreds at Mabopane station in 1991.

"When I heard the announcement on Thursday night, I couldn't wait for sunrise so I came here and started selling. My only source of income comes from selling sugar beans and morogo. The 21-day lockdown announcement was hasty. It did not give enough people to plan ahead," she said.

Another vendor, Josephine Mainetja, who sells non-perishable goods and food, said she was concerned about the process to get a permit.

She added they had previously approached the chairperson of the Tshwaranang informal traders association which represents hawkers at the bus and taxi rank.

"We've been waiting since this morning for our permits. Our chairperson, Ester Mathole, has been in talks with people who manage the taxi rank and we were promised that we would get the permits. We are hungry. Permit or no permit, I'll be coming back. They can arrest me," Mainetja said.

Vendor Gideon Mlangeni, who has run a cellphone and computer repair shop for 15 years, said there was widespread confusion over the regulation.

"We all thought the announcement included all informal traders. I guess we will have to wait for 16 April to hear if we will be included," added Mlangeni.

A circular, dated 5 April 2020, on the amendment regarding Informal Food Traders states: "Municipalities must ensure that informal food trading [uncooked] takes place in an area specially demarcated for such purpose; that appropriate hygiene and sanitation services and facilities are provided."

The municipality has urged vendors to go to their nearest council office to apply for permits.

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