Stellenbosch Municipality and Informal Workers clash over evictions

By StreetNet International
January 18, 2013
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18 January 2012

In a sudden departure from its initial acceptance of the Stellenbosch Crafters Market, the Stellenbosch Municipality has evicted all traders from the area they have occupied for the past eighteen years.

This structured and settled group of survivalist traders have by the stroke of a pen lost all sense of security as well as their constitutional right to ply a legitimate business on an area conducive to their sustainability. The informal business sector by its very nature is the final bastion of survival for persons who by circumstances beyond their control are not able to be absorbed into formal businesses or state services. StreetNet International and the Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition(WCITC) advocates that local municipalites need to incoporate informal workers in to their future plans. For informal workers their trade is their livelihood and the only means to support themselves.

According to WCITC, while they have not been granted official security of tenure status they feel they  have been lulled into a false sense of security by a municipality which allowed them to trade unhindered for the past eighteen years while accepting fees of up to R35 per trader on a daily basis. To now pull the rug from beneath them using archaic apartheid ere by-laws  is in our opinion misguided, unconstitutional and smacks of insensitivity of the highest order.

The WCITC believes that further tension has been caused due to a  local church which is documented where objections has been raised against the traders’ presence which is adjacent to their building and should bear some of the responsibility for council’s reaction. After all traders have in the past negotiated with the church authorities in finding some semblance of symmetry in negating aspects of trading which had previously been problematic.

Traders were up until now under the impression that relations between them and the church had been sorted and settled. Numerous attempts at getting a response from church authorities have so far been unsuccessful.  In the mean time the municipality plans to relocate the affected traders to an area far from the tourist route, yet they are essentially a tourist attraction and depend upon that avenue for their sustainability.

WCITC calls upon public support in changing the mindset of the local authority. Moreover they call upon the municipality to do some introspection and hopefully come to the realisation that these traders have never demanded anything from them except the opportunity to be able to earn a legitimate living. The 1913 land act robbed 80% of the population of their rights to the land of their birth. Why do local municipalities and councils in some areas still attach themselves to this narrative?

WCITC does not believe the municipality would deliberately want to destroy the livelihoods of the most marginalised of micro businesspersons, but they need to concede that they should be partnering and mentoring these individuals to reach their optimum potential. Why have they not provided adequate and aesthetically pleasing infrastructures? Why indeed are traders kept out of council discussions which directly and indirectly affect them? And when will council admit to the integral role informal business plays in the economy of the region, the province and indeed the entire country!

The traders will be appealing for an interdict and will be in court on Monday, 21 January at 14H00.

The Western Cape Informal Traders Coalition has under its umbrella the interests of all traders in the province and is affiliated to the South African Informal Traders Alliance as well as to StreetNet International, a worker organsation which represents its affiliates at a national and international level. Our mentors are the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the South African Municipal Workers Union. We are bound by our constitution to highlight all inherited inequalities which hinder our development and to seek redress of the unfair treatment of our constituents in Stellenbosch.

Distributed by:
Sharon Pillay
Media and Publicity Officer, StreetNet International
Cell: 072 2577 317/ 072 620 9958

For more information, please contact
Ms Rosheda Muller [PRO Media & Liaison Officer)
Cell: 078 765 1737


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