Durban Informal Traders March Against The City’s ‘Clean Up’ Campaign

The Market Users Committee (MUC) has called on the KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s office to establish an independent commission of inquiry following allegations of irregularities by the eThekwini Municipality’s handling of informal trading permits. This came after hundreds of people including informal traders, the Right2Know Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo members from various branches marched to the Durban City Hall to hand over a memorandum against the mayor’s ‘clean up’ campaign, which has resulted in scores of informal traders being forcefully removed from their trading spots on the streets.

Among the list of their demand was an agent meeting with the mayor Zandile Gumede within seven days to discuss the management “failures” in the city and lack of communication.

The MUC secretary Nico Magwaza said the march was organised following numerous issues affecting informal traders were raised.

“This is not new. It started a long time ago. It dates back to the time the city policies and by-laws were disregarded by business support officials and committee. This violation has led to numerous issues including an increase in permits prices which was decided without consultation of some stakeholders,” he said.

Magwaza added that there were traders who have spent over ten years applying for permits but are still never granted any.

Nomasonto Sibiya*, 51, has been an informal trader for nine years, selling fruits in West Street. She said she first started applying when she started selling back in 2009.

“I have been applying all these years but I’m being told that there aren’t any permits. This is my only livelihood and each time the municipality officials and metro police come to remove us or take our goods, it affects my family as well. I’m old now and can’t live like this, I’m not a thief I’m just making an honest living,” Sibiya said.

Among the marchers were different groups including the Right2Know Campaign, a social movement campaigning for the free flow of information, the South African Informal Traders Forum and Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Secretary general of Abahlali baseMjondolo Thapelo Mokoena said the struggle of informal traders was no,different from that of other marginalised groups.

“Struggle of a student, informal trader and someone who is a shack dweller is the same because these are all the marginalised groups. That’s why today we are here in solidarity with the traders,” he said.

March organisers have given the municipality an ultimatum to resolve the matter within seven days and threatened to see them in court if that doesn’t happen. The South African Informal Traders Forum secretary general Brian Phalo said they are building a case against the municipality.

“We have approached lawyers to assist us. We are building a case to say if they don’t stop what they are doing to the informal traders of eThekwini, we will quickly go and approach the court to interdict their action,” he said.

Featured image by Lizeka Maduna.