StreetNet host workshops with Informal Workers in Eastern Cape, South Africa

By Sharon Pillay, StreetNet Media and Publicity

StreetNet had visited their affiliate, The Eastern Cape Street Vendors Alliance (ECSVA) on the 27-30 October 2014. They facilitated workshops in Mthatha, Dutywa and Port St Johns where they had a chance to meet ECSVA members and listen to the challenges they were facing. StreetNet also provided communications training and organisational support for the traders.

In Mthatha, the traders spoke about their frustration with the Ndyebo Municipality. Fundile Jalile, Chairman of ECSVA has been part of the ongoing negotiations commenting that the Directorate of the Local Economic Development, Mr Mnqokoyi will not give them a breakdown of the budget they have for the informal traders and how they plan to use it to help them. "After constant meetings, they had declared in a meeting that they had a R1.3 billion budget for Mthatha, with a percentage that is set aside for the informal trade. Many people are unemployed and women especially are breadwinners, who contribute to the economy. We need services, such as proper shelters, toilets and water. There should also be training workshops. The municipality failed to give us a breakdown of the budget. What are they doing with the money? Nothing is being done for their people," said Jalile.

The traders in Dutywa from the Dutywa Workers Association noted similar complaints. They said since 1994, there has been no delivery and the Mbhashe municipality never consulted them. In 2011, they were invited to a meeting where they were told there was a budget of R2.4 million to help informal workers. The municipality also refuses to give them a breakdown of the budget. "The government talks about liberation, but they are not liberating us. They continue to sideline us and don't treat us as humans. When ever we ask for meeting, they always postpone the important questions and never give us answers or help us," they said

Also it was mentioned that the traders applied for a permit so they can conduct a march, but they were once again sidelined. "The Mbhashe municipality made sure we stay on the back roads, out of public sight but during their marches when the government workers of the municipality protest for wage increases, burning tyres and destroying everything insight, it seems fine that they use the main roads. Our marches are peaceful, informing the community about our role. Why does government sideline us when we help the economy and just want to earn a decent, honest living," they said.

In Port St John's traders face looming evictions. Lack of communication between the Port St John's Municipality and the traders, resulted in them not being aware that the Local Economic Development sector of the municipality should have a budget set aside for them. The municipality provided land for them to trade, which is far away from the daily commuters and also has less visibility. This makes it difficult for them to do their daily trade. "We were not invited and not told about their plans. They municipality had constructed some shelters in select areas but they charge the traders fives times more than a trader can afford to pay. It would be good if we can reach an agreement of an acceptable amount. The day and life of a trader is unpredictable. Some days we make money and some days we don't." trader, Wiseman Magopeni said.

It is estimated that in the Eastern Cape region, unemployment is high. Informal workers depend on their trade for their living has to pay for a trader's license and in most cases on top of that rent. Traders commented rent is too expensive and government has done little to assist them. " We would like to have more markets built and basic provisions like water, toilets and shelter as some of us trade in the heat and rain at times. The municipality is not accountable and won't tell us what they do with the money meant to help the people! We cannot be liberated unless we liberate ourselves, as politicians don't seem to help people. We have to fight for our rights now."

StreetNet conducted media training, helping affiliates to understand how to work with media, and to use the available tools to gain maximum visibility and presence. There were practical exercises done with different scenarios. "Each area we had visited had different challenges and overall we were able to influence the traders positively so that they were inspired to be use whatever tools they had to make the public aware of their victories and challenges. I am glad everything went well and they are able to put their training into practice as they have an interview booked with media24, one of the leading newspaper groups who have newspapers in all the areas we did training in." said Sharon Pillay, who facilitated the workshop.

StreetNet along with the Eastern Cape Street Vendors Alliance will also continue working with the traders so that they receive fair treatment and also have their basic rights met.

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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.

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