Johannesburg’s informal traders score during World Cup

Date: June 18, 2010
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Cities pushed and South Africa’s informal traders pushed back. After months of mobilising, marching and protests, Johannesburg’s informal traders won their place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The City of Johannesburg has allocated selected informal traders with vending areas at the city’s stadium precincts, FIFA-branded Fan Fests, as well as city-run public viewing areas. Presented with a city-issued schedule, which rotates vendors between venues, traders have welcomed the decision, which came just days before the World Cup opening match.

“I’m very happy now that I’ve been accredited to cater for the city staff and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department,” says Sophie Tlhagale, chairperson of the Soccer City Traders Association who has been vending at Sandton’s Fan Fest at Innisfree Park.

However, FIFA regulations have meant that these traders may not be as close to the stadium as they may have hoped, admits Sibongile Mazibuko, head of the City of Johannesburg’s 2010 Department.

“The Host City agreement requires that the City promulgates a Host City By-Law [that] deals with access control, informal trading, advertising…” she said. “Stadiums are now an exclusive-use area and the traders have had to move outside of this zone.”

According to Mazibuko, traders who received allocated vending areas had to have been accredited by the City’s Department of Economic Development and were largely women who, like Tlhagale, had traded near stadiums during their construction or renovations.

South Africa’s informal economy is estimated to account for about 7% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Human Sciences Research Council. The International Labour Office has estimates that women account for 70% of all informal traders in South Africa. For these traders, access to potential World Cup income is a long awaiting dream come true.

The move is also a step forward in recognising the vital role that such informal traders play in the region’s economy, also outlined in the 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. This Protocol commits states to, by 2015, adopt policies and enact laws that ensure equal access, benefit and opportunities for women and men in trade and entrepreneurship, taking into account the contribution of women in the formal and informal sectors.

The city’s move came less than a month after 33 of the province’s informal trader associations marched on the Soccer City headquarters of FIFA’s local organising committee (LOC) bearing placards with slogans like “Will my children eat soccer balls?”

At the march, traders presented LOC CEO Danny Jordaan, with a list of demands including a stop to all trader relocations, employment opportunities for traders among FIFA affiliates such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, as well as allocated vending within venues.

The march was sparked, in part, by the attempted 28 February eviction of Soccer City traders from the stadium prior the flagship stadium’s completion, according to Cecilia Dube, Soccer City Traders Association vice-chair. “You feel like they are taking away your job,” said Dube at the 12 March Soccer City protest. “This is the only way I am getting bread on my table.”

Dube, who spent the first week of the World Cup trading at venues such as Ellis Park and major hot spots like the city’s Joubert Park, says she’s pleased with the city’s decision but added that competition – both from formal fast food stands and other traders – has been stiff.

Currently, World Cup volunteers and city staff, including police and emergency medical; services, comprise the bulk of traders’ business, which according to Dube, has sometimes meant that there’s not enough business to go around.

Laura Lopez Gonzalez is a freelance journalist based on South Africa. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.


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