Street trading in the central business district of Cape Town 1864- 2012: a study of state policies
This thesis seeks to examine the making of official policies on street trading in Cape Town’s city centre and the impact of such policies. It covers an extensive period from colonial times to the Union era and from apartheid to democracy. The local government and its role in controlling the trade is the centre of focus but the thesis also explores how the oral testimonies of street traders in the city centre contribute to our understanding of the activity as well as the impact of policy. This thesis poses several questions. What influences policy? What is the impact of policy? Are there continuities or discontinuities in policy? How does one understand street trading and the impact of policy from the perspectives of street traders themselves? Given that there are significant studies of street trading in other municipalities, how does a history of street trading in Cape Town compare? Is there anything distinctive about Cape Town?` Several factors have influenced policy. These have been similar to other local authorities. These have been the desire to raise revenue for the city, to protect the interest of established businesses who feared competition from street traders, the city’s desire to maintain a clean, beautiful and orderly city, as well as traffic and sanitation considerations. Like other local authorities, strategies have included: issuing licenses to street traders and the development and implementation of street trading regulations which either restricted or prohibited street trading. In contrast to studies of other cities, this thesis explores the practice of registration as a measure of control which nonetheless confers rights. This thesis marks the 1980s as representing a decisive shift in policy from one characterized by the prosecution of street traders to a more sympathetic and supportive approach towards street traders. The post-apartheid context saw significant changes in policy motivated by the desire to seek solutions to unemployment and poverty alleviation. Thus permanent stands for street traders in the city centre have been provided, traders have been involved in decision making and power has been devolved to associations. The latter practice has been significant in Cape Town. This thesis has also found that out of the major South African cities, Cape Town comes after Johannesburg in having progressive street trader policies. This measure of progressive is seen in the number of street traders, in the provision of infrastructure such as stands and the encouragement of the sector. While the Cape Town city council has a developmental continuum plan which sees street trading leading to formal businesses, it has yet to put resources to further this. Oral histories have been particularly useful in highlighting that street trading is not only the occupation of the urban poor. This thesis highlights individuals with skills and education and who see the sector as bearing many advantages. The thesis points to the sector as being differentiated. Further, the distinction between the formal and informal gets blurred in the contemporary era. This thesis highlights the hereditary nature of street trading in Cape Town thus challenging ideas of street trading as a transitory occupation. With regard to policy, interviews highlighted the negative impact of policy during apartheid. While traders see the advantages of the democratic era, they nonetheless argue too that the encouragement of the sector has seen an increase in the number of street traders but no significant increase in a customer base. There is thus some nostalgia for the pre-1994 years. This study has allowed one to track continuity and discontinuity and to explore the idea of a progressive policy and to make comparisons with other cities drawing from official and oral sources.