The Constitutional Court today handed down a judgment explaining its reasons for ordering the City of Johannesburg to allow informal traders to return to their stalls in the inner city of Johannesburg on 5 December last year. Evoking the spirit of Nelson Mandela, the Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke condemned “Operation Clean Sweep” as an act of “humiliation and degradation” which rendered thousands of people, and their children, destitute.

The Court expressed concern that the City had described the eviction of several thousand informal traders as “convenient” and instead characterised Operation Clean Sweep as “indiscriminate” and “flawed”, finding that the City had “gone about achieving its objectives in flagrant disregard of the traders’ rights”.

The City resisted the traders’ application to be restored to their stalls on the sole ground that it was not urgent, and said that they could claim damages later for any loss caused by the evictions. Moseneke ACJ found that this attitude “may well border on the cynical”.