Mon. Aug 19th, 2019

South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation

warwick junction informal workers street vendors trading empowerment transformationSouth African city centres are still plagued with systemic problems, mainly stemming from the fact that city spaces were engineered to cater to the white minority during apartheid.

south african street vendors are redesigning urban transformation 1024x732 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation

69d58bfc copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 41 1200x858 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation

Durban’s historic Warwick market can serve as a lesson to other cities, according to the World Economic Forum. Responsible cities are continually trying to find the balance in protecting the livelihood of the informal businesses in city centres while committing to urban renewal.

South African city centres are still plagued with many systemic problems many stemming from the fact that South Africa’s major cities were engineered to cater to the white minority during apartheid.

Considerations toward the black majority were mostly in the form of ways in which their movement could be controlled, and their living spaces could be contained.

a0a206a0 copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 38 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation
A vendor sells produce in Warwick Junction. Photo: Kyle Laferriere

The Warwick Junction is one of the remnants of that past. The bridge, during apartheid, served as one of a few ways for black people to enter the city.

These choke points were engineered to make controlling the movement of workers in the city centre easier and also making it possible to lock down the city effectively should the need arise.

0fa4361f copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 42 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation
A vendor in Durban, South Africa’s Warwick Junction marketplace. Photo: Kyle Lafferriere

The market at Warwick Junction has grown out of this captive audience, made up of more than 7 000 informal vendors selling everything from cow head soup to toothpaste to the more than 450 000 daily commuters and shoppers that pass through the junction.

The market however nearly disappeared into the history books when as part of the preparations for the 2010 World cup it was announced that the market would be replaced with a modern mall putting the livelihood of more than 80 000 stall owners, workers and suppliers at risk.

Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) – Zulu for “bring it to the table” – is a small non-profit, which got involved in supporting informal traders through legal assistance and advocacy on their behalf.

AeT’s work paid off and when the municipality decided to call it’s redevelopment plans to a halt. However, AeT realised that in order for the market to continue there would need to be greater respect for the rights of informal workers.

7ec74e11 copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 36 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation
Street vendors of South Africa’s largest trading hub Warwick Junction are empowered by Asiye eTafuleni to be “co-developers” of their space. 14 June 2017 / Image via Twitter: @currystonefdn

Along with the non-profit Legal Resource Centre, AeT taught the street vendors about their legal rights and provided pro-bono legal assistance. The work done by the groups eventually led to courts ruling that it would be unlawful for the city to impound informal traders goods.

With the rights of the traders and street vendors now more secure AeT worked with the vendors to re-engineer the market infrastructure. The fully inclusive process upgraded the generic space in Warwick Junction into areas that catered to the specific needs of traders. Patric Ndlovu, AeT co-founder, explains:

“Inclusive design is the solution. If you include the users during the design stages, they will look after the infrastructure, because they had input. They are valuable, and they are knowledgeable, and they know their stuff.”

d9aa5602 copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 40 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation
The Music Bridge in Durban’s Warwick Junction marketplace. Photo: Kyle Laferriere

In addition to the upgraded infrastructure, AeT also developed the traders teaching them to advocate for themselves and negotiate with the city about the use of municipal land. A street vendor at Warwick Junction’s meat market added:

“AeT gave us leadership training so that we can build our leadership capacity. They opened our eyes. Nobody can prevent us from raising our voice.”

b372e5e7 copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 39 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation
Jewelry sellers in Warwick Junction. Photo: Kyle Laferriere

The critical success in this undertaking was the ability of AeT to bridge the divide between the city and the informal traders by allowing them to engage with each other on an equal footing.

This set the stage for an exciting space that shows what’s possible when a city and it’s informal industries are able to speak the same language. Romila Chetty, secretary of the Early Morning Market Traders Association, concludes:

“Seven years down the line and the market stands here today. It’s because of leaders like us.”

a558d5ae copy of tsa cover image 1200x858 37 - South African street vendors are redesigning urban transformation
Toe Shozi, a jeweler, gives a tour of Warwick Junction. Photo: Kyle Laferriere

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *