Informal traders must be included in R500bn relief, says alliance

30 April 2020 - 08:00 By ERNEST MABUZA
The South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to include them in the government's plans to provide socio-economic relief.
The South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to include them in the government's plans to provide socio-economic relief.
Image: GCIS

Informal traders should be included as beneficiaries of the socio-economic measures worth R500bn that were announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, the South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) said on Wednesday.

The association, which represents the interests of about 2 million informal traders, said the lockdown from March 27 has caused unbearable strain to informal traders as they lost the opportunity to make income since then.

The association said since Ramaphosa's first speech announcing the lockdown, he had promised that the government would look into how it could help informal traders, but said nothing has materialised 32 days into the lockdown.

The alliance said it welcomed the lockdown as a way to curb the pandemic.

They perform one of SA's most important services - collecting recyclables that would otherwise swell the country's rubbish dumps and burden municipal trash collection - but the coronavirus lockdown has left thousands of waste pickers without any way to make a living. While municipal refuse removers were classified as essential workers, waste pickers were excluded from the list. Lockdown measures are expected to be relaxed slightly from May 1 2020, but the group still faces an uncertain future.

However, it questioned why saving lives equated to taking the informal traders sole source of income and excluding them in the economic intervention of R500bn.

“Does an informal trader not form a part of economy of this country? And [do] informal traders not deserve to eat — or survive?” the alliance asked in a letter addressed to Ramaphosa.

The alliance said in a country where unemployment was sitting at 29.1%, the informal sector should be recognised and included in economic interventions by the government.

“It relieves some of the unemployment pressure, reduces household poverty, and contributes to the local economy,” it said.

“While it is often viewed as a source of missing revenue, it should be seen by government as important player in the South African economy.”

The alliance said the sector provides opportunities for marginalised and historically disadvantaged people.

“We once again appeal to our honourable president of this country to consider informal traders as human beings who struggle in the street to survive,” said the alliance's general secretary Michael Mokgoja.

Smuggling between South Africa and Zimbabwe is rife in Musina, Limpopo. Zimbabweans, facing a dire food security situation, can no longer buy food in the town as the coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of the border to South Africa. Despite the erection of a R37 million fence, which was completed on April 20 2020, food is still regularly being smuggled into Zimbabwe.


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