Ladysmith informal traders unite to resist forced removal of street barbers to flood prone area without alternatives or negotiation

16 August 2012

An ongoing battle since 2009 between the Ladysmith Municipality and Street Vendors led to street traders embarking on a protest march on the 7th August 2012 for harassment, forceful evictions by the police and lack of service delivery. A memorandum was handed to the Office of the MEC of Local Governance Nomusa Dube, as the street traders claim they no longer trust the co-operation of their local municipality.

Zama Zondi from the Informal Trade Support Services (ITSS) organisation representing the street barbers as well as other informal traders in Ladysmith commented that the municipality started violating the rights of the street vendors just after the MEC and Premier`s announcement that Ladysmith should be funded under the upliftment programme in KZNs small towns.

The street vendors in Ladysmith have been trading for 16 years. "The municipal manager, Mr Madoda Khathide and the officials made an erroneous decision to put up a structure for the street vendors to trade in the flood prone area, which is on the banks of the Klip River. They had not even consulted the people concerned," he said.

A protest march was held recently by the Street vendors to bring attention to the harassment, forceful evictions by the police and lack of service delivery

Zondi continued to quote the ANC’s freedom charter which asserts that people should have freedom of choice. "One cannot exercise the apartheid regime to poor people who have no power to free themselves from oppression. We have made an appeal to the MEC for intervention as the situation is very tense as the moment. The people are frustrated that they are not being listened to. Their trading shacks get mysteriously burnt down on numerous occasions where there is no known cause of the fire. The traders in Lyell Street as well in Macksons are forced to vacate their homes, and are reluctant to move to an area where they are susceptible to flooding. The municipality and the officials continue to harass them."

The street vendors, particularly the hairdressers, were given a short notice to vacate the premises, after refusing repeated requests to meet ITSS. The street vendors are in the process of opening a case. Advocate Rev G.S.T Radebe, who is assisting ITSS on a pro bono basis, wrote to the municipality on 22 June, about the sensitivity of the matter involving land and the imbalances of the past which have not been addressed including forced removals. In a second letter sent on 14 August requesting a meeting between the municipality and the street traders, and a temporary moratorium, have been met with no response.

The struggles of ITSS and the other street traders` organisations are supported by the Ubumbano Trader Alliance in Durban. Mzwandile Mavula, Secretary for Ubumbano, said that their organisation together with StreetNet International (to which Ubumbano is affiliated), which broadens, networks and represents over 500 000 informal traders through national and international structures, is monitoring the situation especially around the 20 August, the date of the threatened eviction. "We think it is shameful that in a democratic country, people still resort to apartheid scare tactics and prey on the poor whose trade is their only means to survival."

Pat Horn, International Co-ordinator, stated that StreetNet`s message to the Ladysmith municipality is to urgently convene a meeting with the representative organisations of the street traders (including street barbers) to find a resolution to this problem in the spirit of social dialogue. If they do not do this, they are likely to meet the united resistance of organised street vendors in the whole KwaZulu-Natal Province and the whole country as informal traders across all 9 provinces are currently uniting for the launch of a national alliance of street vendors early in 2013, to strengthen their united voice to and intensify their struggles against poverty and injustice.

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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