PRASA COURT APPLICATION DISMISSED
Traders back at Joburg’s Park Station for first time in three weeks after xenophobic threats
On Monday, the Johannesburg High Court dismissed Prasa’s application to prohibit traders from operating near Johannesburg’s Park Station on the basis that it lacked urgency and that Prasa should take legal recourse against Operation Dudula instead of the traders. The court also granted costs in favour of the traders.
On Tuesday, the usual bustle outside Park Station was restored after dozens of informal traders resumed activities for the first time in three weeks. They returned after the Johannesburg High Court dismissed an application by the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa) to prohibit traders from operating near the station, citing fears of xenophobic violence.
Phumlani Ndlovu, a clothes trader and chairperson of the Park Station Traders Management Forum, said he was delighted with the court’s dismissal of Prasa’s interdict after weeks of uncertainty and anxiety.
“For me, it was jubilation, because of the cries of the dependants… that have not been able to get what we can give them for the past few weeks.”
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri), represented more than 60 traders at Park Station in their opposition to the interdict. Seri attorneys successfully argued that Prasa was inappropriately targeting traders for the conduct of a third party, the vigilante group Operation Dudula.
On Monday, the Johannesburg High Court dismissed Prasa’s application on the basis that it lacked urgency and that Prasa should take legal recourse against Operation Dudula instead of the traders. The court also granted costs in favour of the traders.
A statement from Seri said: “The court took into consideration that an interdict on trade had the effect of causing the traders irreparable harm because they are people on the margins of society and in the period during which they cannot carry on trade they are without any income.”
Following threats made by Operation Dudula that all migrant traders must be removed from the station, Prasa submitted an urgent interdict against all informal trading at Park Station. The rail agency argued that the presence of traders placed the station’s property at risk of vigilante attacks. They cited a need to keep traders away from the station as they finalised their regulations for informal trading before eventually allowing traders to return on a case-by-case basis.
For three weeks, traders like Abduilli Hashim, who sells sweets, matches and accessories at Park Station, could not earn an income. “I didn’t work, I couldn’t even manage to serve the family,” said Hashim.
Hashim and other traders first shut down their stores on 21 June as a safety precaution when Operation Dudula members marched through Park Station threatening to remove foreign vendors. The night before, parts of the Yeoville Market were burnt down in what traders widely believe was an Operation Dudula attack. The threats to Park Station traders are part of a wider trend where Operation Dudula has targeted and threatened informal traders across Johannesburg.
Prasa ordered traders not to operate and security guards prevented traders from setting up shop. Ndlovu said traders “came every day not knowing whether they were going to trade, but just coming to find out whether they will be given an opportunity to trade again. It was very painful.”
After the court’s dismissal of Prasa’s application, traders were relieved to be back at work and earning an income again. Nevertheless, some traders still fear threats of violence by Operation Dudula and worry that Prasa is failing in its responsibility to protect them. DM/MC