Above 1 500 informal evicted traders in Johannesburg have filed a lawsuit of more than R120 million against the City of Joburg, after they were evicted from their trading points three years ago.

Through the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), the informal traders filed papers in the high court in Joburg on behalf of 1 652 traders who were temporarily evicted from their places of business during Operation Clean Sweep in October 2013.

SERI head of litigation Nomzamo Zondo said the traders were evicted, although they had a right to trade in the area, granted through permits issued by the City of Joburg.

“Without any warning or explanation, they were removed from the streets in a mass eviction operation.

“Many were assaulted and had their goods trashed. All lost large quantities of valuable stock,” Zondo pointed out.

That prompted the SA Informal Traders Forum and others to launch an urgent application for an order stating they were permitted to trade in a manner consistent with section 9 and 10 of the city’s informal trading by-laws, at locations they occupied prior to their removal. They also asked that their stalls, which were damaged, be re-erected.

“In an extraordinary urgent hearing, held on December 5, 2013 the Constitutional Court put an end to Clean Sweep, calling it an illegal act of ‘humiliation and degradation’ and directing the city to permit the traders to return to their places of business immediately.

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“Since then, despite repeated demands, the city has neither apologised to the traders for the harm it caused, nor offered to compensate the traders for their losses. SERI has accordingly been instructed to turn once again to the courts for relief,” Zondo said.

“Each of the traders represented by SERI claims for the loss of their goods destroyed or illegally confiscated during Clean Sweep and for the injury to their dignity caused by their sudden and public eviction.

“The traders also ask that the city be directed to make a public written-apology, to be published in a major newspaper circulating in Johannesburg,” Zondo said. She said the city had never once sought to justify its brutal and humiliating eviction of the traders nor had it been prepared to repair the damage it had caused.

“The traders will now seek to vindicate their rights in court,” Zondo said.