Since Friday afternoon, more than 20 vendors were arrested and released on warning.
Those found without permits had their goods taken and ordered to pay a R500 fine to release them.
During clashes with police, some angry vendors barricaded streets with crates, stones and set boxes on fire.
“We wanted to ensure all traders have permits and operated in demarcated areas. We also wanted to ensure that all those from other countries have Home Affairs permits and sold legal items,” said Mbombela municipal spokesman Joseph Ngala.
Ngala said traders cannot be allowed to sell counterfeit goods, illegal cigarettes and pirated CDs and DVDs.
“We say traders must be regulated and get permits. We will change the current permits as we have discovered some have fake ones. We will also not tolerate misconduct from our officials demanding bribes from traders in exchange for permits,” he said.
Ngala urged traders with information on corrupt officials to submit their names so disciplinary action can be taken against them.
Shaka Nkosi, chairman of local association Sita Nempumelelo Traders, praised the municipality for cleaning up the streets.
“Those from Mozambique who paid bribes to certain officials boasted by saying the late former President Nelson Mandela was their brother-in-law. So they did what they liked,” he said.
Nkosi said their committee, which is affiliated with the South African Informal Traders Association, approached the Mbombela local municipality since 2010 asking for help.
“The municipality gave us by-laws saying everybody should have a permit. After we called all the traders to meetings, the foreigners refused to attend or follow orders,” he said.
He said the illegal occupation created health hazards within the city making it difficult for shoppers to walk freely.
“After a number of meetings with the municipality, dates were set to evict and arrest those breaking the law. We warned them, but they still did not take us seriously,” said Nkosi.
Last week, fruit and vegetable vendor Salimina Mahlalela (49) said the money helped her raise her two children.
“The municipal officers removed us as if they were chasing criminals… All we wanted was to sell our products so that we can take care of our children, but our freedom is being denied,” said.
Zak Makamu (27), a Mozambican national, said the officials called them “Amashangane,” a word normally used in a derogatory way to refer to Xitsonga and Mozambican people around Mpumalanga.
Makamu admitted that he did not have any legal documents for him to run a barbershop in the CBD.
“They say Amashangane should not do business here because we don’t belong here. It is more painful when your fellow brother mistreats you as if you’re less human,” said an emotional Makamu.