Thousands of Johannesburg street traders unite in struggle against Mayor’s ‘clean-up’

Over 4000 street traders from across the City of Johannesburg today marched on the offices of Mayor Parks Tau (ANC) in protest against the mass eviction of traders from the city streets as part of the Metro’s “Mayor’s clean-up campaign”. Also the traders that have not been victimised joined in solidarity in a close-down of all markets in the city. Organised by the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) and street traders’ organisations African Traders Committee (ATC) and South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF), the march expressed the explosive anger of parents who find themselves unable to put bread on the table, pay school fees and rent. The Mayor received a clear message: by tomorrow all traders would return to the streets, and defend themselves against police brutality if necessary.

The Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council (Metro) is since September 30 imposing a “clean-up” of the streets of Johannesburg. Without warning, Metro Police has evicted thousands of traders, confiscated goods and carried out random arrests without charge. Traders with and without permits issued by the Metro are targeted indiscriminately.

While the clean-up is promoted as a drive to improve city life, it is in reality a dirty and top-down attempt at squeezing poor working class people out of the city. Meanwhile, the Metro has dramatically increased inner city rates, by up to 400%, recently. Metro cleaning workers have also been retrenched.

The march was a resounding condemnation of the systematic xenophobia used by the ANC and the Metro Police in the “clean-up” campaign. Traders of every origin – South African, Mozambican, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Zimbawean, etc – came together as one.

The WASP welcomes a campaign to clean up the City – but only on the conditions of those who work and live in the City, with transparent and representative involvement and control by street traders, workers and residents. The only way to really “clean-up” Johannesburg is through real efforts to create jobs, to provide affordable housing and services, including allowing the informal trading that services the working class and the poor in the inner city, townships and squatter camps, and to root out the corruption that in ingrained to the very core of the ANC government.

WASP will continue to engage in the street traders’ struggle and to build the alternative that is needed to take on this challenge that is posed for the workers and poor: to fight for power over our streets, our livelihoods and our lives.

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