Women pinafore-sellers and informal traders protest against EThekwini Municipality for fair trading rights

8 August 2012

The protestors on their way to the Durban City Hall, led by the Ubumbano Traders AllianceCommemorating Women`s Day, a march was held this Tuesday, against the City Council. This was done to speak out against the exorbitant prices charged by private business owners and to protest the rights of the informal traders. There is a call for the municipality to provide Street Vendors a decent place to trade as they also have trade permits.

The march had started from Botha`s Garden and then proceeded to the City Hall, where a memorandum was given to the office of the Mayor. The march mostly consisted of the women pinafore-traders, supported by Ubumbano Traders Alliance (Ubumbano) and StreetNet (to which Ubumbano is affiliated), a worker organisation that broadens, networks and represents their members through national and international structures.

Ubumbano has been formed in order to coordinate the representation of informal traders and provide a channel through which different traders` organisations and representative structures may collectively represent the interests of informal traders in Durban.

The crowd of protestors intently listening to the struggles of their fellow colleaguesMazwandile Mavula, Secretary for Ubumbano and Convenor for this event, commented that the rent charged for the Street vendors to sell in the flea market is too high. "If you look at the women pinafore-sellers on the south side, I have been told they are charged between R1 000 - R1 200 a month. It sometimes can be more, depends on what they negotiate with the private business owners. Some would have to pay for the electricity as a separate expense and they also work in small rooms were buildings are old and not maintained. They are allowed to sell their goods on Sundays only. This means they are not taking much money home. Many of the women are single mothers who are the main bread winners" he said.

Mavula commented that this issue with the municipality has been ongoing on since 2008. "There are also select places in the CBD that are unoccupied and can be used. We are having this march in hopes to bring awareness to this issue as government needs to cater for the informal traders whose livelihoods depend on their trade." he said.

The protestors braved the rain and bad weather conditions to attend this march so their voices would be heard Other issues that surfaced were the need for the municipality to have proper procedures in place to help Street vendors to purchase their trade permits. Many of them don`t know where to get them from. According to the protestors the municipality has a Street Committee along each road, where they assist traders to get their permits.

Margaret Shange has been a Street Vendor for 10 years and works as a dressmaker. She complained that the municipality has no regulations in place for the Street Committee as there are allegations of corruption in some of the places. "It costs R480 to obtain a trade permit that has to be renewed every six months. The Street Committee who I have to go to charges us R2 000 every time we have to renew it. It is against the law as they pocket the extra money. It is sadly a common problem. Many of us don`t have that kind of money. When we complain to the municipality they don`t hear is and send us back to the Street Committee. When we are unable to produce our trade permits, we are evicted by the police. It is not fair as already we have high rent expenses to pay. We need a proper place to trade. I am a single mother and I work 7 days a week just to try put food on the table for my family. I hope that we will be heard this time," she said.

On their way to Durban City Hall"StreetNet, jointly with Ubumbano, has asked the new City Manager for a meeting to discuss the many problems of street vendor regulation in Durban which the Council under previous City Manager Mike Sutcliffe failed to address ever since they abandoned the implementation of the inclusive Informal Trade Policy adopted by the City in 2002. Certainly we will also add the problems of the pinafore-sellers to the agenda for that meeting, "added Pat Horn, International Co-ordinator for StreetNet.

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StreetNet International

StreetNet International is an alliance of street vendors. It was launched in Durban, South Africa, in November 2002.

Membership-based organizations (unions, co-operatives or associations) directly organizing street vendors, market vendors and/or hawkers among their members, are entitled to affiliate to StreetNet International.

The aim of StreetNet is to promote the exchange of information and ideas on critical issues facing street vendors, market vendors and hawkers (i.e. mobile vendors) and on practical organizing and advocacy strategies