Why are we criminalising and ill-treating street hawkers, maar?

On 17 November last year I saw the streets of Rustenburg being cleaned off street hawkers, many of whom are – according to my observation over the years – brothers and sisters from the African continent. This, of course, is not to imply that our streets are only flooded by these business-minded people because even many South Africans are street hawkers.

It was very shocking how these business-minded people were ill-treated by our government who, instead, should be making it easier for them to run their business. As mentioned earlier, because many of them are from the continent – whether with relevant documents or not as that is not my problem – I felt a sense of xenophobia at play.

I do not know why but I did. This is not the first time something like this has happened and one cannot say any certainty at all if the same thing happens in other parts of the country especially the big cities like Durban,Cape Town,Gauteng, Tshwane, etc.

On August 5 the same year Rustenburg Herald newspaper carried a report in which many of these business people had their businesses clamped down while others’ were destroyed without any explanation.

Where others were fined and had paid their fines – their resources and business materials were not returned to them by the department of public safety official – many of who can hardly run after a thief (I have seen them three times being outrun by the suspected thief).

According to the newspaperRustenburgMunicipality– specifically Public Safety officials as they are the only government officials who I have seen with my own eyes running after these business people – had at the time brought a truck that was loaded with the goods of these street workers.

The reports carried concerns of two business people – Samuel Sithole and Meshack Mokwena – who said they had lost goods worth R20 000 that had been impounded by the municipality in March that year. Mokwena told the newspaper that he had since laid a charge of assault against the one of the Public Safety official after an altercation at the time.

The unemployed Mokwena who is “trying to make an honest living” said he had been trying unsuccessfully to get the permit for the previous two years. He and other hawkers without permits put the blame at the door of the municipality, saying they had been “given the run-around every time”. Mokwena criticised the municipality and the Public Safety’s heavy-handed against them. He said the municipality was turning a blind eye at those who were trading at traffic lights.

Why this unwarranted disregard and ill-treatment of people who are trying to make an honest living? Worse, why does government (public safety officials in Rustenburg) treat them so heavily?

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