'We are desperate': Gauteng informal traders battling under lockdown

21 May 2020 - 19:35
By Nonkululeko Njilo
Informal traders in Gauteng on Thursday called on the government to allow them to work.
Image: EUGENE COETZEE Informal traders in Gauteng on Thursday called on the government to allow them to work.

A non-profit organisation representing thousands of informal traders in Gauteng on Thursday called on the government to open up the economy to allow them to work and feed their families. 

“We are desperate to resume trade so that we can put food on the table for our families and regain our dignity,” said the Johannesburg Informal Traders Platform (JITP).

It also expressed concern over an alleged lack of consultation by the government.

“They are deeply concerned that government has not consulted them to understand the impact of the lockdown on their livelihoods,” said spokesperson Ntakuseni Tshikosi.

Tshikosi said they had been asking the government to allow the sale of cigarettes and hot food, among other products and services.

“While we understand that the president has the unenviable task of balancing lives and livelihoods, we are disappointed that all measures that are taken currently benefit everyone except informal traders,” he said. 

“Allowing restaurants to open for take away orders, and opening the economy to e-commerce, while good, does not serve the informal trade at all.” 

The government recently permitted restaurants to resume operations for deliveries only.

“None of our members have access to Uber Eats or the internet, so they are feeling sidelined. We urgently require a comprehensive intervention that will alleviate the hardship they are experiencing,” said Tshikosi. 

He said the only relief the informal traders had was the R350 distress grant made available by the government, but “unfortunately, it is not enough”.

He said the inability to render services had forced some to turn to crime in an attempt to put food on the table. 

“In townships, we are starting to see an increase in crimes as people resort to crimes due to hunger and desperation - and even the infiltration of overpriced, substandard, illicit goods such as cigarettes, which is what we are against as Johannesburg Informal Traders Platform.” 

Tshikosi slammed the government for forgetting the traders, which he said made up the backbone of the informal economy. 

“We are also seeing government engaging and meeting with various stakeholders, but somehow, those of us that make up the backbone of the informal economy have fallen through the cracks, and have not once been asked about the impact of the regulations on our livelihoods,” he said. 

“The informal traders platform's final plea to government is that they reconsider allowing the sales of hot food, cigarettes and other goods and products in level 3, as these directly contribute to informal traders’ ability to survive.”