Resource Guides

DWRG cover photoDomestic work is one of the largest sources of employment for black women in South Africa, however domestic workers remain one of the most vulnerable occupational groups. Many domestic workers continue to be subjected to exploitative working conditions and disrespectful treatment. Despite the implementation of labour laws and the collective efforts of domestic workers to assert their rights, domestic workers' employment rights are not always respected. SERI developed this user-friendly resource guide to create awareness of the rights of domestic workers and the obligations of employers in terms of the domestic employment relationship. It explains what the law says about domestic workers and gives practical advice on how domestic workers can engage their employers. The guide is also accompanied by six information sheets on leave (also available in isiZulu), wages (also available in isiZulu), the UIF (also available in isiZulu), the CCMA (also available in isiZulu), employment contracts (also available in isiZulu) and the end of the employment relationship (also available in isiZulu). The guide was written by Kelebogile Khunou.


traders guidefor webThis guide sets out the rights of informal traders making a living in Johannesburg and the avenues available to ensure those rights are protected. Informal traders make a living in hostile environments, and local governments do not protect the rights of people making a living informally in the same way that they do those working in the formal sector. Despite this, informal traders have found novel ways to hold local authorities to account. If traders are aware of their rights and how to protect them, they are better placed to resist illegal harassment and clamp downs on their businesses. >>It can be downloaded here and should ideally be printed and folded.


TradersRightsThis pamphlet explains the process that a municipality must follow to legally prohibit informal trade in an area, or to relocate informal traders. It outlines what a municipality can do in terms of the Businesses Act 71 of 1991, what the process is that a municipality must follow to restrict or prohibit informal trade in an area, and what can be done to stop the restriction or prohibition of trading in an area. It is important to know about this process so as to ensure that a municipality follows the law, and that those who might be negatively affected are given a chance to participate and articulate their position. This pamphlet was written by Michael Clark.
>>It can be downloaded here and should ideally be printed and folded.


Research Reports

Jurisprudence DocIMGThis report responds to the fact that municipalities have struggled to fully come to terms with the law relating to informal trade. The report unpacks court judgments which have substantially contributed to the rights of informal traders and identifies a range of legal principles governing the rights, duties and obligations of informal traders, law enforcement officers and local government. The report dispels a number of longstanding myths associated with informal trade, including the belief that the law does not grant protection to foreign nationals who participate in informal trade, that informal traders often act illegally or unlawfully while trading, and that the only regulatory mechanisms available to local government are the impoundment of traders’ goods and the eviction or relocation of traders. The report concludes with various recommendations that have been drawn from case law. The report was developed in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SAGLA), and was written by Tim Fish Hodgson and Michael Clark. >>Read the full report here.


Discussion DocIMGIn 2017, over 1.1 million South Africans worked as informal traders. Informal trade therefore makes up a significant component of the economy and has an important role to play in addressing some of South Africa’s most pervasive developmental challenges, including high levels of unemployment and poverty. Local government has a pivotal role to play in facilitating informal trade. For this reason, this report provides a set of recommendations to local government on how informal trade can be regulated in a manner that respects the rights of informal traders, and is just, humane and inclusive. With knowledge of the law, local government can alter their approach to informal trade by supporting and nurturing this essential sector while also boosting economic growth. This report was developed in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and was written by Michael Clark. >>Read the full report here.



This report provides a portrait of informal trade in the inner city of Johannesburg. In 2013, informal traders were evicted on a mass scale from the city’s streets as part of Operation Clean Sweep. The City of Johannesburg explained the operation as an effort to rid the inner city of crime and grime. During the eviction of traders, and the subsequent refusal to allow them to resume their trade, the City failed to follow the consultative processes required by the Businesses Act. The operation was later lambasted in a Constitutional Court judgment as an act of “humiliation and degradation”. This report investigates the regulation of informal trade in the inner city, as well as traders’ daily experiences of making a living there, in order to explore the impact of the prohibition and restriction of trade being pursued by the City. It argues that the regulation of informal trade is restrictive, non-consultative, orientated towards enforcement rather than development, and that it is instrumental in producing illegality. Further, by foregrounding the experiences of traders, it exposes major gaps in informal trading policy in the city and in the way in which informality has been imagined more broadly. The report argues that the challenges of informal trade can be addressed if the City improves the way in which it is regulated. There are, however, also deeper problems with the ways in which informality is imagined and approached by the City, and the state more generally. The report shows that an investigation into how prohibition or relocation may effect traders, as set out in the Businesses Act, is both possible and necessary. The report was written by Dennis Webster. >>Read the full report here and the summary here.


criminalising_the_livelihoods_of_the_poorThis research report examines the impact of attempts to formalise street trading in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality since 2000 on the livelihood of traders, particularly female and migrant traders. Durban has been at the forefront of developing policies to manage and control informal economy activities; however, as the report notes, the effect of the push for formalisation is exclusionary and mimics the influx control regimes of the apartheid administration, which prevented black communities from pursuing business opportunities in central business districts. Such regulation has a particularly adverse effect on migrants and poor women, since they struggle to meet the requirements for registration, permits and rentals. The report provides some recommendations for policy-makers, city officials and traders. The report was written by Blessing Karumbidza. >>Read the full report here.


Community Practice Notes

Making a Living Series

SERI’s fouth set of Community Practice Notes published in July 2017 focus on people in precarious work. The community practice notes in this series highlight the struggles many vulnerable people face in earning a livelihood, including poor working conditions, long hours, low pay, and the insecurity associated with part time, temporary or informal employment.

The first community practice note in the Making a Living Series is:

1. Abattoir Workers: Unfair Labour Practices and Anti-Union Strategies in Robertson

CPN Abattoir workers pic FINALAbattoir Workers: Unfair Labour Practices and Anti-Union Strategies in Robertson is the first in the Making a Living Series of community practice notes. It details the struggles of a group of abattoir workers against unfair labour practices in Robertson. The workers were forced to work significant amounts of overtime (much more than the legal limit) and were dismissed when they resisted these unlawful practices. The community practice note documents their struggles to unionise and vindicate their rights in court.

This community practice note provides a brief background to the working conditions at an abattoir in Robertson; summarises the key events in the abattoir workers' struggle; and examines the strategies workers used to defend their rights. It is available in English and Afrikaans.


Working Papers

This working paper was initially prepared by SERI for the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) as part of a larger project funded by the Ford Foundation. To read the CDE report entitled “Learning to Listen: Communicating The Value of Urbanisation and Informal Settlement Upgrading” see here. This working paper provides an up-to-date overview of the current landscape with regard to informal settlement upgrading in South Africa, particularly the linkages between informal settlement upgrading, livelihood creation, informal sector development and economic opportunity generation. The paper was written by Kate Tissington.