The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) has released Public Space Trading Guidelines for Local Government 2021-2016. SALGA is a constitutionally mandated organisation responsible for representing, promoting and protecting the interests of local government.
Informal trade makes up a significant component of the economy. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2021 Quarterly Labour Force Survey, approximately 2.5 million people work in the informal sector, including street trading. Although informal trade has been recognised as vital to reducing unemployment and poverty in South Africa, it remains largely unsupported by the state, with traders operating in a restrictive rather than enabling regulatory environment.
Informal traders were particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing significant loss of income and harsh treatment from law enforcement officials during the lockdown. Furthermore, informal workers were excluded from the government’s COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). In the context of an economy which has contracted by 7.2% and an overall increase in unemployment and poverty, according to the Finance Minister, the urgent need for government to support the informal economy is apparent. Local government has a crucial role to play in developing and implementing a supportive and facilitative regulatory and policy environment for informal trade.
The SALGA guidelines comprise of a compendium of three documents: the policy guidelines; the framework by-law and; the health, safety and infrastructure guidelines. The purpose of this body of work is to aid local governments in executing their regulatory and developmental mandate with respect to public-space trading. The policy guidelines, focused on identifying the most pressing policy problems, outline short, medium and long term recommendations aimed at improving the operating conditions for informal business and delivering a coherent and effective governance structure. The framework by-law, informed by recent case law related to local government and the informal sector, focuses on key themes rather than a model by-law, in order to assist municipalities in selecting and adapting the by-law material to suit their local contexts. The health, safety, and infrastructure guidelines focus on proposing a spatial response to the pandemic, and includes additional issues such as spatial governance and infrastructure supply such as water and ablutions.
The guidelines were prepared for SALGA by a team appointed by the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC), an agency of the National Treasury, and reported to the Capacity Building Programme for Employment Promotion (CBPEP). SERI joined the project steering committee in November 2020. The steering committee held extended consultations with government and informal economy advocacy actors such as Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Department of Small Business Development, National Disaster Management Centre, GTAC, Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising, the European Union and StreetNet International, as well as academics in local government and law (from the University of the Witwatersrand), municipalities, and representatives of national and local informal sector organisations.
The SALGA President encourages all mayors to review their regulatory frameworks and to implement these guidelines, in consideration of their local context, to kick-start inclusive economic recovery.
Also see SERI and SALGA’s publications on informal trade: