A POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF STREET TRADER ORGANISATIONS IN INNER CITY JOHANNESBURG, POST OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP
Benit-Gbaffou, Claire (ed)
CUBES (Centre for Urbanism & Built Environment Studies) and Wits School of Architecture
It is more than a year after Operation Clean Sweep, where in October 2013 the City of Johannesburg brutally evicted all traders from the streets of inner city Johannesburg. Most of these traders did not belong to street trading organisations, did not have an easy recourse to a language of “rights” as most of them were trading “illegally” in the inner city. Most of them were not organised neither making collective claims, but were used to adopting a politics of invisibility, of every day arrangements and constant mobility. In this context, what is the relevance of street trading organisations: why this research? The response to this question is three-fold. First, street trading organisations seem to be the victim of a double prejudice: a political one, that discards their leadership as opportunistic, their protests as “popcorn”, their organisations as “fly-by-night”, un-representative and irremediably divided. And, to a lesser extent, there is also an academic prejudice against street trading organisations, not considered as forming an authentic “social movement”, or at least seldom included in this field of study (see for instance a number of books devoted to social movements in South Africa - Ballard et al. 2006; Dawson and Sinwell 2012): because of their divisions, their lack of clear -let alone radical- ideological position, and their intrinsic fragility and fluidity. Yet, street trader organisations persist.
Most international academic literature hardly considers street trader organisations as an object of research. Street trading organisations are often too fragmented and fragile, too locally focused and politically weak, too short lived or fluid, to be construed as an authentic “social movement” – whatever it may mean. Furthermore, they are seen as representing the tip of the iceberg, focusing mostly on legal traders and protecting those traders’ (legitimate but narrow) interests, while ignoring a majority of traders who adopt other types of politics. It is relatively recently perhaps that scholars have highlighted the “changing politics” of informality, and paid more attention to the collective agency of informal traders conceptualised as “workers” (Lindell 2010a).
POLITICAL LANDSCAPE; STREET TRADING ORGANISATIONS; Johannesburg Inner City; POST OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP
Benit-Gbaffou, Prof Claire. 2014. A POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF STREET TRADER ORGANISATIONS IN INNER CITY JOHANNESBURG, POST OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP; A Wits Planning & Politics third year class report