Access to courts and the right to work for informal traders in South Africa

Country: South Africa
Body: Constitutional Court of South Africa
Case number: Case CCT 173/13 and 174/13
Year of judgement: 2013
PDF of decision

Upon an urgent request, the Constitutional Court of South Africa intervened in a lower court affair to prevent the municipal government and Metropolitan Police Force from hindering what was asserted to be lawful activity by informal traders under the auspices of “Operation Clean Sweep”. Until the legality of the program that prevented trading in public city locations could be evaluated, its implementation was prevented when the appeal was upheld. The decision was supported by guaranteed access to the Courts, according to section 34 of the Constitution of South Africa. This allegedly provided traders who relied on the informal economy to feed their families and maintain the level of dignity allowed for in Article 10 of the Constitution of South Africa, with the ability to carry on activities until a legal decision could be rendered. Thus reaffirming that, the ability to earn money and support family is an important component of the right to human dignity (para. 31) enshrined in the South African Constitution.


The final decision regarding the legality of the programme that prohibits informal trading has not yet been published. However, the case is considered significant because it demonstrates how a judicial system may respond quickly and efficiently (the appeal was decided upon within a week of submission) to contentious issues of economic and social rights when they are threatened, in this case the right to work an important component to the right to human dignity.


Case Title: South African Informal Traders Forum and Others vs. City of Johannesburg and Others

Date of Judgement: 5 December 2013, [Link to official record]


Social Protection and Human Rights