Peoples Coalition Report imageOn Monday, 25 May 2020, SERI together with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) and Asiye eTafuleni published a report compiled for “Informal food system: Vendors, Street vendors & spazas” work stream of the C19 People’s Coalition Food Working Group.

The purpose of this work was: a) to check back on the current status of key issues raised in our informal food vendors position paper and b) to identify advocacy messages and strategies that speak to the current status quo.

As stated on page 1 of the position paper: “About 70% of households in poorer neighbourhoods source food from the informal sector. This is because the sector makes food accessible by selling it close to where people live and work, which saves on transport costs, and at transport nodes used in people’s daily routines. Also, informal traders generally have long operating hours, sell products in quantities that people can afford, often have lower prices, and in some cases let regular customers buy on interest-free credit. Fresh produce traders sell many basic products at half or one-third of the price of similar foods at supermarkets, making a balanced diet far more accessible”. 

The snapshot finds three main things: a) Currently, “trading is about survival now, there is no profit”, and enabling informal trade is now more than ever, a matter of survival; b) there is significant inconsistency in how different municipalities are regulating informal trade, and c) there is a lack of practical support from local authorities to help traders protect themselves and their customers from contracting Covid-19.

This research confirms and extends the following recommendations:

  • Informal food vendors and spaza shops should be allowed to trade without complicated registration procedures; where necessary vendors should be able to apply for permits at sites which are closer to home and their normal trading sites, and not made to travel into city centres for this purpose, which is both risky and expensive.
  • Municipalities should supply informal food vendors with water, sanitizer and/or bleach as a matter of urgency, so that vendors can protect themselves and their customers from infection. Vendors in all three metros are taking safety measures including social distancing very seriously, but none are provided with support to do so.
  • Regulations that obstruct food trading must be eased. Regulations should not be used as an excuse to filter some vendors out of the system. Neither should they be used to introduce new bureaucratic red tape barriers and at the same time open opportunities for abuses of power by enforcement agencies.
  • Municipal and national government must give clear and consistent messages to the public, authorities and security forces. SALGA and CoGTA can help create consistency.
  • It is not lawful for security forces or authorities to harass informal food vendors. It is unethical to prevent survivalist food traders from trading and it is unlawful to confiscate their goods especially during a pandemic that is destroying both food security and livelihoods.

>> Read the full report here.

>> Read the position paper here.