Licenses and Permit Moratorium for Informal Workers

Sithulisile Moyo

Licenses and permits that expired between March 2020 and June 2021 will remain valid until 31 December 2022.1 Disaster Management Act, 2000; Directives Regarding Business Licenses and Trade Permits; Government Notice 615 of 2021 published in Government Gazette no. 44853 on the 15th of July 2021.2

COVID-19 crisis exposed the disparities and vulnerabilities experienced by informal workers in urban public spaces ranging from police harassment, economic instability, and the unlawful confiscation of goods. AeT in partnership with WIEGO conducted a research survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on specific groups of informal workers and their households. Using a survey questionnaire and in-depth interviews, the first round assessed the impact of the crisis in April 2020 and mid-year 2020 compared to February 2020 (the pre-COVID-19 period). The second round was conducted in mid-year 2021 to assess how workers were experiencing COVID-19 resurgences and ongoing economic strains, and to what extent (if any) they had recovered. The extent and magnitude of the damages and financial loss incurred by the informal economy workers is largely disheartening.3 In lieu of a municipal governance sympathetic towards informal workers, we have reported incidents of increased human rights violations and confiscations of goods, at least twice weekly by the enforcement officials. This, notwithstanding the promulgation and publication of a national moratorium on the extension of validity of businesses licenses and trading permits directives, eThekwini municipality has continued to enforce and confiscate goods of informal workers in this jurisdiction. It’s been 7months post 15th of July 2021 yet the ethekwini municipality has not implemented the moratorium as per legislative directives. 

Zama, who has been a trader in Durban for sixteen years says; 

“ We are at the mercy of the police officials in this city. We are constantly harassed and treated worse than thieves by these authorities. Sondl’imndeni ngalamatafula”.

These directives are issued to enable businesses whose licenses and or permits have expired and/ or are due for renewal during the implementation of measures to prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 as published in Government Gazette no. 44838 and subsequent regulations; to operate their businesses despite their licenses and or trading permits having expired. 

The directives are issued to also enable new applicants to submit their applications and be granted temporary licenses and permits. 

a) All business licenses and or permits that expired during the period that commenced from 26 May 2020 up to and including 30 June 2021 are deemed to be valid and their validity periods are extended for a further grace period ending on 31 December 2022.

b) The submission and processing of new applications for business licenses and or permits commencing from the period 1 July 2021; and applications that were not processed during the period beginning 26 May 2020 up to and including 30 June 2021, is permissible wherein upon minimum requirements being met as determined by a licensing authority a temporary license or permit may be issued with a validity period ending on 31 December 2022. No license fee will be payable.

c) After the lapsing of the extension period for renewal of expired business licenses and trade permits, all businesses must comply with the requirements of the Businesses Act no. 71 of 1991. These directives do not exempt compliance with the requirements of the Act unless where it is otherwise specified.4 We request an urgent response and adherence to this national moratorium for the benefit of vulnerable informal workers on the streets of Durban.

  4. Note 2 supra.

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