Durban – Warwick Market vendors forced to relocate: Thousands of informal workers possibly affected

24 February 2009

By Laura Roberts, StreetNet International intern

A long-awaited meeting organised by the local municipality of Durban on 18th February, 2009, called by the City Manager presented re-development plans that are being fast-tracked to meet deadlines linked to FIFA World Cup in 2010. The City Manager, Mike Sutcliffe, informed street vendors` associations about the relocation of vendors and planned changes to re-direct traffic. The development will dramatically change the market where currently an estimated 4 500 traders work in what is a thriving hub of informal economy activity. Approximately one million people pass through the area every day en route from the station, taxi and bus ranks.

Street vendor organisations, members of the Durban-based SISONKE Alliance who are partners of the World Class City for ALL Campaign wrote a protest letter to the municipality on January 9th asking why the city had not yet conducted meaningful consultations with the local informal traders` associations on the upcoming FIFA development plans and projects.

The city manager announced the following developments:

  • A large retail shopping mall, Warwick Mall, will be constructed where the current thriving Warwick Market is currently situated;
  • Relocation of 30 registered street food vendors (Bovine Head Cookers) from their current location to the English Market.
  • 237 informal street traders (permit holders) who currently work in the Warwick Market area will be relocated to the square in front of the new Warwick Mall.
  • Re-routing of the major throughways surrounding the Warwick Junction in order to lessen traffic congestion. This development will include the establishment of a new taxi rank to be located on the top floor of the new Warwick Mall.

Street vendors raised a number of concerns on the redevelopment and its impact on the local informal street traders` livelihoods at the meeting.

Gaby Bikombo, a member of Siyagunda, a street barbers` organisation which has members with stands on the pavement in Warwick said:

"I am very concerned about the impact on the community of street traders at the market because of the closure of the Warwick Avenue. It is not clear how this will indirectly affect their families, who they are supporting as breadwinners. The city`s plan to introduce formal traders in the midst of the informal traders` market is likely to pose a problem, taking trade away from informal traders who have traditionally earned a living here, as they have now to compete. Planners are insensitive to the informal traders` livelihoods".

He continued to explain how "in other countries, informal traders have lodged formal protests with government to stop such retail development on public land as the urban poor`s livelihoods are jeopardised."

On March 12th the City has proposed a second meeting with street vendor organisations to discuss the details of the project and to consult further regarding the development. The reality however is that for many of the street traders it is difficult to take the time off to attend such meetings as they are not compensated for their time and risk losing potential earnings.