Some informal traders denied permits

FILE IMAGE: Street vendor selling to customer
FILE IMAGE: Street vendor selling to customer
Image: File / Nonkululeko Njilo

Many informal traders were left frustrated and upset after spending hours queueing for temporary permits, only for them to be turned away at the City of Johannesburg’s offices in Braamfontein on Monday.

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced on Thursday that informal traders could again start earning a living during the lockdown.

However, Dlamini-Zuma said only spaza shops and informal food traders would be granted permission to continue trading during the 21-day lockdown period. This did not include informal traders who sold food such as cooked meals, but was limited to fresh produce traders.

Zodwa Zungu, who runs an informal restaurant around Park Station in Johannesburg said she was upset and confused after she was turned away from the permits offices.

“We got to the front of the line and we were told that only people who sell vegetables and fruits would be allowed to get permits. I sell plates (steak, pap, and chicken) and they said I wouldnt be issued with a permit,” Zungu said.

The 48-year-old mother of five said she was frustrated because she did not know how she would be able to take care of her children. She was one of hundreds of informal traders who queued up at Thuso House in Braamfontein to collect temporary permits.

“I make about R600 on a good day. This goes towards taking care of my children and running my household. Even getting here, I had to borrow money because I haven't an income in over a week,” she said.

But, Dlamini-Zuma indicated that informal food trade referred “to spaza shops and fruit and vegetable stores, and not informal street traders”.

A Soweto spaza shop owner said he was happy that the government had come to its senses and allowed them to trade again. Thabo Masango said he was confused and did not understand why foreign-owned spaza shops were allowed to operate during the lockdown period, but locals were prevented from doing so.

“I understand that to stop the spreading of the virus meant that we needed to close our shops. But we provide an essential service for the people in our communities and they depend on us. It didnt make sense that we had to close down while big companies and foreign-owned spaza shops were allowed to operate,” he said.

During her announcement on Thursday, Dlamini-Zuma warned some of the 21-day lockdown regulations could change, with some being relaxed and others tightened.

"We have learned a few lessons from the past week of the shutdown. We have realised that spaza shops were supposed to be open, but for some reasons some were asked to close. We are clarifying that all spaza shops should be opened. We have included informal food traders,” Dlamini-Zuma said.