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Governing street trading in post-apartheid Cape Town: neo-colonial or neo-liberal order?

Pages 157-180 | Received 09 Jan 2023, Accepted 02 Nov 2023, Published online: 16 Jan 2024


This article addresses the issue of the temporalities of public action in Cape Town, using the example of the governing of street trading since the early twentieth century. Our main argument lies in a discussion of the current understanding of the governance of street trading as a product of a neo-liberal regime reproducing the colonial order. Using the genealogical method of Foucault and his conceptualisation of neo-liberalism as a rationality of government, we show that although the instruments of control may remain the same (limitation of permits, spatial zoning and identification of traders), their political meaning has changed over time, reflecting a shift from coercion and repression to neo-liberal governmentality. We demonstrate empirically how neo-liberalisation operates through a transformation of the very rationality of these instruments. We conclude by emphasising that using Foucault’s definition of neo-liberalisation and method helps to build a theory of neo-liberal change for post-colonial contexts.


Cet article aborde la question des temporalités de l’action publique au Cap, en prenant l’exemple de la réglementation du commerce de rue depuis le début du XXème siècle. Notre principal argument réside dans une discussion sur la compréhension actuelle de la gouvernance du commerce de rue en tant que produit d’un régime néolibéral reproduisant l’ordre colonial. En utilisant la méthode généalogique de Foucault et sa conceptualisation du néolibéralisme comme une rationalité de gouvernement, nous montrons que bien que les instruments de contrôle restent les mêmes (limitation des permis, zonage spatial et identification des commerçants), leur signification politique a changé au fil du temps, reflétant le passage de la coercition et de la répression à la gouvernementalité néolibérale. Nous démontrons empiriquement comment la néo-libéralisation opère à travers une transformation de la rationalité même de ces instruments. Nous concluons en soulignant que l’utilisation de la définition de la néo-libéralisation et de la méthode de Foucault aide à construire une théorie du changement néolibéral pour les contextes postcoloniaux.


In 2007, J.-P. Smith, a Cape Town councillor known for his conservative views and security fetish, defended a controversial municipal by-law on “nuisance” and “prohibited behaviours” in public space, stating that “if the amendments were not passed, the city would use existing by-laws to achieve its aim.”Footnote1 This provocative yet controlled reference to colonial by-laws reflects the ambiguous relationship that the post-apartheid metropolitan government of the City of Cape Town (CoCT) has with these legacies, particularly that of the technical instruments inherited from earlier periods. In order to govern street trading,Footnote2 the CoCT relies on instruments designed in the nineteenth century (registration; licences and permits; spatial zoning) and still resorts to restrictive municipal by-laws, suggesting the reality of a “colonial present” (Miraftab Citation2012) in the Mother City. Meanwhile, backlashes against street trading similar to those observed in Cape Town are taking place globally, sometimes far from post-colonial contexts. They are largely understood as the result of a global neo-liberal disciplining (Bhowmik Citation2010; Brown Citation2006; Evers and Seale Citation2015; Graaff and Noa Citation2015). In Cape Town, the fact that the backlash historically coincides with the launch of strong-arm urban regeneration tactics in the city centre supports the notion of a 2000s neo-liberal shift (Didier, Peyroux, and Morange Citation2012; Miraftab Citation2007; Pirie Citation2007; Samara Citation2011). Yet how can colonial and apartheid legacies fit into this theoretical reading? Obviously, the temporalities framing this interpretation are problematic: How do we make sense of contemporary governing practices in Cape Town? Can we reconcile the idea of a “neo-colonial spatial order” and the advent of “a neo-liberal reordering of space” (Steck et al. Citation2013, 148)?

This paper addresses this thorny issue of the temporalities of public action regarding street trading in post-apartheid Cape Town. We use this problem as an entry point into interrogating the advent of neo-liberal rationalities of government in post-apartheid Cape Town. Moving beyond the theoretically poor alternatives of neo-liberal or neo-colonial/neo-apartheid order, we suggest considering historical continuities not as a means of understanding the repetition of the colonial order in the present, but as a necessary method to understand the unfolding of neo-liberalism, understood as a rationality of government, in any post-colonial society. This approach is congruent with Foucault’s definition of neo-liberalism (Foucault Citation2004b) as a slow and sometimes imperceptible progression of entrepreneurial values within society rather than the quick and dramatic advent of a set of political, technical and institutional reforms, as posited by (neo)Marxist political economy. As Parnell and Robinson (Citation2012) have pointed out, one problem of these latter interpretations lies with their framing by European and North American neo-Marxist political economists and urban geographers who understand neo-liberalisation as a disruptive transformation of public action. This reading narrows the scrutiny of the political transformation to a 1980–1990s “roll back–roll out” chronological sequence (Peck and Tickell Citation2002). While this perspective might be operative and relevant for the case studies these authors observe, it does not consider potential continuities of public action understood in a longer time frame and says nothing of the issue of potential colonial legacies in post-colonial contexts. The Foucauldian genealogical method understood as a long-term analysis of the evolution of the rationalities of government, as well as his conceptualisation of neo-liberalism as incremental transformation, seems more relevant in these particular contexts. If we wish to fully understand late capitalism and its further transformations (i.e. neo-liberalisation), this approach helps properly capture what exactly changes, and in what specific way, everywhere yet in a situated way.

This methodological approach adapted from Michel Foucault involves analysing the continuities and variations in local public action over time, to illuminate the political nature of the regime of power they help to construct in present-day Cape Town. By continuities, we mean the replication or permanency – particularly of technical instruments – that nonetheless makes room for a shift in the political meaning of these instruments, as opposed to a notion of inertia that would suggest an uninterrupted longevity or mere reproduction of state practices. Focusing on technical instruments of government, we document why they were crafted in the first place; we expose how they have been honed, appropriated and implemented by public authorities; and we scrutinise the changes in their political meaning over time. This genealogical approach thus allows for a dynamic reading of continuities, beyond the hypothesis of a mere sustaining of the colonial (or apartheid) state.

Our analysis stands at the crossroads between three (neo)Foucauldian theoretical strands of literature. Firstly, borrowing from political philosophy, specifically from the debate opened by Foucault on the governmentalisation of the state, and from his definition of neo-liberalism, we conceptualise neo-liberalisation as a political rationality linked to advanced liberalism and enshrined in economic and entrepreneurial values, practices and norms (Dardot et Laval Citation2009). To grasp this rationality concretely, we draw from institutionalist approaches and the sociology of instruments (Lascoumes et Le Galès Citation2005). These authors invite us to appraise the political effects of instruments of government and the rationality they bear, instead of focusing on more classical readings of governance and actors. Finally, we rely on recent works in political science that empirically document the continuities of state practices throughout history in post-colonial contexts and scrutinise the progress of neo-liberalisation in these contexts through mundane bureaucratic practices (Hibou Citation2012).

These debates are presented in the first section of the paper. The section explains why continuities are problematic when talking about neo-liberalisation and how the combination of these three approaches unlocks a certain number of these problems. We then turn to our empirical analysis. Drawing on the theoretical input of these three strands of literature, we demonstrate, through a nuanced appraisal of the changing political meaning of the technical instruments that have framed street trading in Cape Town since the colonial period, that elements of neo-liberal rationality have made their way into the governing of these activities. The shift to neo-liberal rationality is visible in the use of three specific instruments that have structured public action: licences and permits; spatial zoning; and individual biometric records. These instruments have tended to shape the “problem” of street trading along three lines, which operate as the guidelines for our analysis: the governing of numbers, of space, and of individuals. In the final discussion, we return to methodological and theoretical possibilities offered by Foucault to enhance the effectiveness of the concept of neo-liberalisation and theorise change within capitalism in post-colonial contexts.

We draw on the archives of the municipality located in the City Clerk’s office (between 1900 and 1948) to analyse the evolution of technical instruments and of rationalities of government. These archives constitute a rich source of information on the daily debates, the small and large problems faced by municipal officials, the incremental establishment of a regulatory and legal framework, and the power relations particularly visible between the municipality and the province. These archives do not cover the apartheid period (1948–1991), during which street trading was virtually banned from the centre of Cape Town. To bridge this gap in the archives, we turn to an extensive press review and the work of F.E. Tabe (Citation2014). The contemporary period is documented through semi-structured interviews conducted between 2009 and 2018 and a parallel analysis of grey literature. This resolutely variegated method documenting a century of public practices allows us to understand and reflect on potential links between different temporalities of the city centre. The Cape Town city centre is where the most acute problems of traffic, cleanliness and image arose, as early as the end of the nineteenth century, and the norms of public action for the whole metropolis were elaborated with reference to this particular urban space. Its prominence across time in the definition of the “problem” of trading (and the solutions as well) also makes possible a long-term analysis.

Governing street trading in South Africa: making sense of continuities

Street trading and the place these activities occupy in colonial and post-colonial cities have generated a massive amount of literature in African studies. In South Africa, these questions have been addressed in several disciplinary fields, with scientific debates remaining compartmentalised. While urban studies focus on the post-apartheid moment and pay little attention to colonial continuities, urban history renders continuities visible, yet without discussing their political significance for the contemporary moment. In this section, we show that these two strands of literature have developed separately and argue that it is urgent to bring these literatures into dialogue to integrate the question of continuities into the critical apparatus of neo-liberalisation and make it fully effective as a theory of change.

Old questions, yet compartmentalised debates

A first strand of literature addresses the issue of street trading in South Africa from a historical perspective, resonating with a vast body of literature about this issue on the continent. Street trading seems indeed to be a constitutive part of urbanisation in Africa (Mitullah Citation2005). Everywhere it developed rapidly, following the pace of urban growth, and everywhere it was perceived as problematic by the local authorities in the so-called European parts of the city (Coquery-Vidrovitch Citation1991; Le Pape Citation1997). Research in urban, social and political history has questioned the place of these activities in African cities, as well as that of the political mobilisation and collective agency of street traders (Fourchard Citation2006). In South Africa, a large body of work has informed our understanding of the place of small-scale street traders in colonial society. This work favours a racial, community or ethnic reading of local political dynamics, particularly around the Indian traders of Durban (Tomaselli and Beavon Citation1986; Vahed Citation1999) and Cape Town (Morange and Didier Citation2019). The apartheid period is less well documented, due to the decline of street trading in city centres and a shift in focus for urban historians: the study of Grand Apartheid was prominent in this period, and documented its contrasting local effects in terms of segregation and racial zoning, as well as the local implementation of national housing policies in the 1950s and 1960s (Mabin Citation1992; Maylam Citation1995).

The governing of street trading became an issue again for urban scholars of South Africa during the political transition of the 1980s, thus generating a different strand in the literature surrounding contemporary urban studies issues. The gradual lifting of racial zoning and mobility bans, combined with rising unemployment, reactivated street trading in all South African cities. In a context of economic liberalisation and democratic transition, progressive researchers relayed international debates on the developmental role of what was becoming referred to as “the informal sector” in South Africa (Dewar and Watson Citation1981; Preston-Whyte and Rogerson Citation1991). The academic debate was reframed around issues of socio-economic reparations, desegregation, access to public space, and freedom of movement and of enterprise. Municipal authorities, however, remained very intolerant towards these activities, and local public action was scrutinised vigilantly by critical observers. They commented on the contrasting political paths followed by local authorities that had gained greater political autonomy, trying to identify good practices so far as the governing of street trading was concerned (Dewar Citation2005).

Cape Town’s local government was described as particularly intolerant towards informality due to its restrictive regulatory approach (Skinner Citation2000), but in the late 2000s to early 2010s, Johannesburg (Bénit-Gbaffou Citation2016) and Durban (Roever Citation2016) organised massive eviction campaigns that contrasted with their inclusive policy stance (see Skinner Citation2008b on Durban, and Pezzano 2016 on “Operation Clean Sweep” in Johannesburg in 2013). The inconsistencies of the post-apartheid local state thus became a hot topic and a matter of debate among urban scholars interpreting public action and public intentionality. In Johannesburg, these inconsistencies have been blamed on the existence of a dual agenda – entrepreneurial and post-apartheid, i.e. a contradiction between political discourses of inclusion through participation and the actual “repressive enforcement of bylaws” (Pezzano Citation2016, 509) – or on scalar tensions between local and national governments (Rogerson Citation2016). Other researchers have questioned the ambiguity of local legal environments that give considerable latitude to public authorities (Bénit-Gbaffou Citation2018). Faced with the accompanying resurgence of state violence, a literature inspired by theories of agency has emphasised the resistance of vendors (Tawodzera Citation2019) and their capacity for collective organisation (Bénit-Gbaffou Citation2016), in line with I. Lindell’s earlier work in other African contexts (Lindell Citation2010). Finally, these analyses connect the South African case with a broader international discussion of a global neo-hygienic turn in the governing of street trading (Charman and Thireshen Citation2016; Devey, Skinner, and Valodia Citation2006).

Continuities, inertia and breaks: a problem of interpretation

Whatever the contrasts regarding the framing of the political meaning of state violence against street traders in contemporary South African urban studies, reference to the long term is rare within this literature. When it does occur, it is often allusive: C. Rogerson and K. Beavon (Citation1985), for example, talk of a “tradition of repression” of street trading in South Africa, which is rooted, according to C. Skinner (Citation2008b, 9), in a “persistence of a colonial approach to urban planning,” but this statement is usually left at that. Studies occasionally focus on urban history and continuities, but their overall political meaning is not interpreted (Skinner Citation2008a), with the emphasis being put on the traders’ resistance to decades of repression (Nesvag Citation2000). At best, the neo-colonial aspect of current state practices is ascribed to political “amnesia” (Ernsten Citation2018, 63). Perhaps more accurately, the very continuity of technical instruments used throughout the time from colonisation to apartheid and post-apartheid obscures the possible variations of the political meaning they hold and the possible changes in the political rationalities that they foster. The propensity not to question contemporary political reinterpretations of old instruments is reinforced by the scarcity of technical innovation in this field over a century and a half. As proof of colonial continuity, the historian B. Freund (Citation2009), for example, notes that in South Africa, “street trade is still dealt with through planning ordinances, decrees and bylaws.” However, he does not question the political meaning of the longevity of these instruments that interestingly go largely uncontested amongst planners and city officials today, leading to an unchanged regulatory landscape, regardless of the successive political moments and regimes of control ().

Table 1. Periodisation of street trading regimes of control in Cape Town.

Furthermore, urban scholars who work on the contemporary governance of street trading in South Africa do not primarily frame their analysis around the concept of neo-liberalisation. While street trading is directly impacted by entrepreneurial agendas of urban regeneration, the management of street trading itself remains a public prerogative and is not central in “neoliberal urban experiments” (Brenner and Theodore Citation2002, 368). At best, some work deals with municipal markets and land speculation (Maharaj Citation2020). For similar reasons, the literature on neo-liberalisation in South Africa focuses on topics more relevant to its demonstration, such as urban services (McDonald and Smith Citation2004).

Compared to this lack of success of the concept of neo-liberalisation in the analysis of street trading in contemporary African contexts, an alternative interpretation lies with the idea of the enforcement of a neo-modernist agenda in the city. The entrepreneurial turn, or urban regeneration itself, is seen as a political strategy aimed at masking an anti-African ideology.

This neo-modernist agenda, aimed at addressing the perceived backwardness of Africa and its very African-ness (Simone Citation2004), is conflated with colonisation and apartheid as well as their old dreams of a modern city (Linehan Citation2007; Lewinson Citation1998). Although they are insightful because they emphasise the continuity of the colonial/apartheid state, these analyses tend to minimise the importance of political transformations since the end of apartheid, and they bypass a discussion on the nature of the contemporary regime of power.

The political meaning of shifts and continuities: the contribution of Foucault and his followers

To take the issue of continuities seriously and to analyse them in a comprehensive and dynamic manner, we rely on three bodies of literature inspired by the work of Michel Foucault. Firstly, P. Dardot and C. Laval (Citation2009), inspired by Foucault’s Collège de France lectures, invite us to shift from a neo-Marxist conception of neo-liberalisation as an ideological project or a breach in the politico-economic Keynesian compromise and to envision neo-liberalisation as an incremental and never-ending process of realigning and recalibrating of public action along entrepreneurial lines. With this shift, the state becomes an active supporter of market construction, and all state actions veer towards this cardinal imperative. This reading of neo-liberalisation appears compatible with the post-apartheid developmental agenda that includes a restorative dimension achieved through an expected trickle-down effect of economic growth towards the poor. This analytical perspective can be combined, when it comes to the instruments used to implement this agenda, with the French sociology of instruments (Lascoumes et Le Galès Citation2005). In contrast to classical works in the sociology of public action that unpack governance patterns or the crafting of public policies, the sociology of instruments examines the political effects that technical instruments and governmental devices produce (procedures, legal texts, public policy documents, etc.). It does not deal directly with neo-liberalisation, or with temporalities, but its usefulness lies in the fact that it debunks the illusion of the neutrality of technical instruments and thus politicises their analysis. In the Cape Town context, where technical innovation regarding street trading remains limited, it is a highly valuable theoretical inspiration for conceptualising change despite the continuity of the legal and regulatory environment. Finally, we turn to literature that engages more directly with the discussion on neo-liberalisation. This literature scrutinises the “neoliberal reprogramming” of “instruments of government” under neo-liberal rule. Prominent here is the work of B. Hibou (Citation2012) on Tunisia and Morocco, analysing the bureaucratisation of state practices with a focus on everyday practices and processes. Understanding the governing of street trading as a set of practices, sometimes uncertain and fuzzy, helps break from classical historicised descriptions of political regimes (such as apartheid and post-apartheid), which are not very helpful in understanding the (dis)continuities of public action (Hibou et Tozy Citation2020).

The combination of these approaches unblocks some of the analytical problems mentioned above. Concentrating on the political uses of technical instruments allows us to overcome the analytical fascination produced by their very continuity. It allows us to look beyond the apparent continuity of problems and to consider how issues have been reformulated politically and have evolved over time. Indeed, the same instrument may have been used to foster contrasting rationalities depending on the period we consider. Furthermore, it invites us to consider the potential overlaps between the neo-colonial, neo-apartheid or neo-liberal rationalities promoted by these instruments. The combination of these theoretical contributions is, therefore, very useful to demonstrate how neo-liberalisation concretely operates, beyond notions of political intent. It forces us to critically question the very roots of public action, in terms of its profound rationality, even when it is benevolent and progressive in its intentions – a rationality that may be veiled and obscure to those who implement it, or simply naturalised, as has been shown in Cape Town (Morange Citation2011; Watson Citation2002; Winkler Citation2011). This approach makes it possible to understand neo-liberalisation as a process and not as a political project, to discard altogether the moral dimension that often accompanies the critiques of capitalism, and to focus on the rationalities that support it.

To understand this shift in political meaning, we must replace classical chronological readings of the governing of street trading with a genealogical approach, such as the one that Michel Foucault used to account for the governmentalisation of the modern state (Foucault Citation2004a). The genealogical approach does not seek to trace the mythical (and non-existent) origin of things. Neither does it seek to demonstrate that the past is still secretly alive in the present (Foucault Citation2001). It strives to follow a maze-like path, made of accidents, hesitations and reversals that have given rise to what exists and makes sense to us in the present time.

The archives of the municipality of Cape Town contain a massive number of official municipal documents that allow us to decipher how public action agendas emerged and how their outlines evolved over time. Looking at the emergence, crafting and hewing of social and political orders helps break from an interpretation of the static origin of things and sheds light on the contingent nature of historical processes. In the case of street trading, genealogy reveals how this complex set of very diverse activities has been put on the public action agenda in Cape Town and how the handling of this “problem” has evolved over time, all the way to its contemporary and neo-liberal framing. This “problem” and its associated social and political tensions crystallised as early as the turn of the twentieth century around three debates: commercial freedom versus restriction of the number of licences (governing numbers); freedom of movement versus spatial zoning (governing space); and biometric identification versus civil rights (governing individuals). We now turn to an empirical analysis of the changing political meaning of the attached technical instruments: trading licences; trading plans and the mapping of restrictions or authorisations to trade within city space; and individual biometric records. Looking back at the political rationality that presided over their original crafting and putting it into perspective with their current meanings allows us to envision how neo-liberalisation progresses by incorporating existing regulatory frameworks into a discourse around individual responsibility, the prosperity of the “informal trader” and the construction by the state of the developmental potential of the “informal economy.” It thus appears more as a rationality of government than as a clear set of political reforms or as a changing regulatory fix.

From licences to permits: governing (or not governing) numbers?

The delivery of licences/permits allowing applicants to trade in public space constitutes the first instrument for the governing of street trading in Cape Town. It was introduced as early as the nineteenth century by the government of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. In this section, we examine the original meaning of this system, how it has evolved over time and what these changes tell us about the tension between levels of government and between liberalism and neo-liberalism in Cape Town.

From the 1920s to apartheid: the quota controversy and the debate on “overtrading”

In colonial Cape Town, at the turn of the twentieth century, Municipal Hawker Licences were issued by the province that allowed street traders to operate within the perimeter of the municipality.Footnote3 Licences were meant to tax commercial activities and ensure fair commercial competition between street traders and shopkeepers, not to limit the growing number of street vendors. Conversely, the municipality, averse to this liberal argument, pushed for their limitation in the name of good spatial planning. The province and the municipality regularly clashed over this issue, exposing their contrasting rationalities. During the early twentieth century,Footnote4 the problem of street trading was thus constructed in tension between economic stakes and spatial planning issues. Provincial authorities, responsible for economic issues, defended free trade. They fought against monopolies in order to guarantee fair prices and support the regional economy. They considered street traders as suppliers to the city of fresh produce from the surrounding farms. Furthermore, street trading offered a solution to the problem of under-employment of lumpen classes, especially young Coloured men (Bickford-Smith, Van Heyningen, and Worden Citation1999), who were victims of the 1926 Colour Bar laws and excluded from industrial work reserved for the cheap labour of women and Blacks. The Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, and later the Province of the Cape of Good Hope, therefore liberally issued “hawkers’ licences,” the cost of which seemed adequately high to protect the “general dealer”Footnote5 from the unfair competition of street traders who had lower fixed costs. Municipal prerogatives were restricted to regulating the terms of street trading, in relation to traffic, public order and management of public space. Municipalities could not issue trading permits. They were gradually allowed to regulate street trading through local ordinances, but these documents had to be approved by provincial authorities.

This narrow conception of local public action was far from the municipal ambitions then emerging around issues of planning, proto city-branding and economic development. Street trading contradicted a certain understanding of urban modernity and the municipality regularly denounced “overtrading,” a conception that the local liberal pressFootnote6 and some liberal city councillors opposed.Footnote7 Migration to the city continued, particularly of Coloured and Black migrants from the countryside. In the context of the world economic crisis, the number of vendors in the city centre almost doubled between 1928 and 1932.Footnote8 In 1932, tensions turned into a public “quota controversy,”Footnote9 which ended in the reaffirmation by provincial authorities that the regulation of the economy was not a local affair.Footnote10 With the advent of apartheid in the late 1940s, the tug of war turned to the municipality’s advantage. No matter how much the province resisted capping the number of licences, street trading declined in the city centre.Footnote11 The number of licences remained stable (around 2000 in the 1960s–1970s) but the traders were not allowed to operate in the city centre.Footnote12 Moreover, the implementation of the Group Areas Act in 1966 (Western Citation1996), which led to the demolition of District 6, relegated many traders and some of their Coloured clientele to distant townships. They abandoned the city centre, which was already in decline due to suburbanisation. There were 3400 traders in the Cape Town Municipal Area in 1961 and 2310 in 1981.Footnote13 On the eve of the democratic transition, only about sixty traders remained in the city centre (Urban Problems Research Unit Citation1987).

From overtrading to over-regulation: the end of licences in the 1980s

In the mid-1980s, the tension between economic liberalism and spatial control was reactivated due to rising unemployment, as well as the need for commercial services in the townships deprived of economic activities (and therefore of tax revenues) during apartheid. Trade liberalisation was seen as a response to the economic recession, against a background of extreme political violence in the townships. The years 1989–1991 were marked by passionate liberal statements about the rebirth of “truly free enterprise.”Footnote14 In Cape Town, the liberal press largely drew on the opposition between political and economic liberalism and bureaucratic dirigisme.Footnote15 Prominent here was the clichéd opposition between the British liberalism of the Cape Colony and the Afrikaner authoritarianism of the apartheid regime. A fantasy of the Cape’s liberal tradition and its picturesque colonial markets consolidated, and this image obscured the reality of municipal intolerance since the colonial period.

Towards the late 1980s, during the post-apartheid transition period, a major national discussion was launched within the President’s Council on the development of small businesses and the deregulation and de-racialisation of the economy (Urban Foundation Citation1985). The issue of “overtrading” was thus replaced by a debate on municipal “over-regulation.” The national Business Act of 1991 was born out of these negotiations. The act replaced the four provincial licensing ordinances of Natal, the Transvaal, the Cape and the Orange Free State. It abolished licences and prohibited the confiscation of vendors’ goods and the limitation of the number of assistants. It invited municipalities to consult with vendors and to exercise great restraint in prohibiting trading in public space or in forcing relocation. In Cape Town, progressive town planners and academics played a major role in denouncing the old by-laws and engineering a more inclusive approach to street trading via urban planning (Dewar, Postlethwayt, and Watson Citation1990).Footnote16 As the first municipal elections of April 1996 approached, street trading was increasing again. Several thousand traders were said to operate in the inner city (Morange Citation2016).

The introduction of municipal permits: local authorities building the informal economy

The transition’s emerging metropolitan power was caught between the national injunction to tolerate informality and the imperative of local economic development and urban regeneration that fostered neo-hygienist visions for the city centre. Pending a new municipal by-law that should solve this tension, a temporary system of “informal trading permits” was introduced. This system became permanent after the creation of the metropolitan government in 2000. Under a short African National Congress (ANC) mandate (2003–2006), a progressive informal trading policy was adopted (2004), but when the Democratic Alliance (DA) won the city back two years later, a very restrictive by-law on “informal trading” was voted in that legislated the system of permits (2009). After decades of relative liberality at the provincial and national levels, for the first time the number of street traders allowed to work in the centre was limited and carefully controlled by the municipality, and the regulation of these economic activities shifted to the local level. Permits grant the right to use public space, subject to the availability of sites, the number of which is limited by the CoCT. There were only 1400 street traders/permits in the centre in 2009, even though the city had a population of over 3.5 million. The low price of permits (around 450 rands per month in the 2010s) indicates that the function of spatial control had taken precedence over fiscal issues. Likewise, the permit bears limitations as to the nature of the goods sold and prohibits the holding of more than one permit concurrently.

In direct contradiction with the liberal principles promoted by the Business Act and its genuine attempt to deregulate street trade, the old discourse on overtrading has re-emerged. However, it is now framed in new terms. Counterproductive unregulated competition among too many street traders is targeted, and these restrictions are justified by the need to build a viable informal economy.Footnote17 The old question of commercial freedom, posed since the 1920s–1930s, has been reformulated through the paradigm of informality, embraced in South Africa some 20 years after the International Labour Organization (ILO) conceptualised it. In a classic developmental rhetoric that assimilates the Capetonian situation into that of a Third World city, informality refers to activities carried out by the unemployed, which are not taxed but are registered with the CoCT and are considered beneficial to the poor and the unemployed. The informal economy is not supposed to unfold freely on the margins of state control; rather, it refers to a set of activities and people who are to be included in capitalism, in accordance with the precepts of the ILO: “The informal economy is essential in ensuring that those not able to access formal work or entrepreneurial opportunities are able to access and participate in markets as business owners, workers and consumers” (CoCT Citation2020, 65). In line with the national informal-sector policy formulated in the 2000s, the permit system in Cape Town was initially supposed to foster the gradual integration of street traders (the “second economy”) into the so-called “first economy.” The 2008 financial crisis witnessed a move towards more traditional measures of formalisation to help the “small informal sector” grow, alongside the formal sector (CoCT Citation2020). Nevertheless, regulating the number of street traders still seemed like a fitting way to assist the “informal sector.”

To conclude, a genealogical perspective on the governing of the number of street traders has shown that an instrument designed for spatial control (the permit) has replaced an instrument designed for fiscal purposes (the licence). The shift is clear: from liberal praise of free trade and fair competition by economically liberal colonial provincial authorities as well as the national post-apartheid government to a neo-liberal commitment by the CoCT to help build and regulate a prosperous (although not broadly shared) “informal economy.”

Zoning and trading plans: governing space?

Zoning constitutes the second instrument mobilised to govern street trade. Zoning emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the affirmation of municipal power and of the City’s desire to control public space. In this section, we show that this instrument has always been at the heart of a battle for space in central Cape Town. However, the battle’s stakes have evolved. We discuss these changes by examining the tensions and overlaps between a colonial hygienist concern for flow management, a racialised ideology of spatial containment under apartheid and a neo-liberal rationality geared towards protecting the comparative advantage of the centre in the global economic competition.

From management of flows to racial and functional zoning

The control of public space in central Cape Town became a key issue for the rising municipal power in the early twentieth century. It was debated in terms of circulation and blocking of pavements and streets. The issues of traffic, public health and cleanliness were brought together around a hygienist public obsession with “nuisance” and “filth.”Footnote18 This sanitisation of public debates was formulated in terms of flows and congestion, against the backdrop of the rise of the networked city and of automobile traffic. It led to confining street traders to a restricted area, on the outskirts of the centre, next to the central railway station.Footnote19 This proto-zoning appeared as a pragmatic solution to empty the nearby streets of the city centre. From the mid-1920s, street traders also had to move every five minutes and could only stop their carts for the duration of a sale.Footnote20 “Genuine hawkers”Footnote21 (i.e. respectful of these “move-on laws”) were opposed to “pirates,” a divide framed along the mobility/fixity line. This measure was meant to prevent street congestion and regulate competition between street traders and shopkeepers by limiting the volume of goods that the former could carry with them.

Throughout the early twentieth century, street traders navigated these spatial constraints and learnt how to play by the complex rules that governed their mobility in central Cape Town. In the 1930s–1940s, however, with their booming number in the city centre, mobile trading started to be associated with unruly and unmanageable activities, as opposed to the respectability of permanent stallholders selling flowers, fruits and vegetables or newspapers to a local and international White clientele (Bickford-Smith Citation2009). Throughout the 1920s, spatial restrictions were implemented in certain streets of the city centre and street trade was rejected on the outskirts of the central city.Footnote22 With the advent of apartheid, in 1948, spatial restriction was reinforced. The province approved a municipal ordinanceFootnote23 that made the entire city centre a prohibited area for street traders. In 1953, it endorsed a total ban on Black entrepreneurship in the city centre.Footnote24 As a result, at the end of apartheid, functional and racial zoning were ruling, in conjunction with the principle of spatial fixation for street trading in a very limited number of stalls calibrated to cater for a very limited number of traders.

Democratic transition, deregulation and the battle for space

The liberalisation of street trading in the late 1980s led to the return of traders to the city centre. It was accompanied by the creation, in 1986, of four free trading areas, including the centre, open to all racial groups. St George's pedestrian mall was remodelled to accommodate kiosks and barrows as well as a flea market. Street trading was celebrated in the local liberal press as contributing to the “renaissance” of the city centre (Morange Citation2016). The image of the liberal British colonial city with its lively squares and public spaces was revived, as was the idea of Cape Town’s “continental” charm. However, the passing of the Business Act replaced the issue of spatial control at the centre of political attention and revived old colonial neo-hygienist reflexes in Cape Town. Old municipal by-laws were reactivatedFootnote25 that allowed the eviction of traders, the seizing of their goods, or their arrest for obstruction of public space. In 1991, T. Mosdell pointed out that these by-laws had never been repealed after apartheid was abolished, and that they could easily be reinstated (Mosdell Citation1991).

The implementation of the act was the subject of difficult negotiations throughout the country. This political blocking and the mobilisation of formal trading lobbies against deregulation led to the amendment of the Business Act. In 1993, the governing of street trading transferred from the provincial administrator to local governments, provided the latter had designed zoning plans that had been approved by the province. In Cape Town, trading plans were created to define trading bays and prohibited areas. After a decade of post-apartheid transition devoted to deregulation, St George's Mall was declared a “hawker-prohibited area” in 1992, in the name of its “upmarket shopping precinct” character. The municipality drove out nearly 140 traders; only 60 were allowed to stay. The liberal press talked of “old-style regulation”Footnote26 and of a renunciation of the spirit of the Business Act.

Trading plans, local economic development and the territorialisation of public action

Today, in the centre, street trading can only take place on a limited number of trading bays operated by the municipality, in a way similar to that of apartheid. The return to restrictive and top-down zoning reveals the power of the local planning imagination. However, zoning is no longer based on race and is not primarily meant to address traffic and hygiene issues. It was originally presented as a way to put an end to colonial by-laws while addressing local concerns about the control of space. As a result, trading plans can be interpreted as an attempt to make room for the “informal sector” in a highly controlled manner, within selected urban territories, while protecting the economic potential of the centre. Indeed, public discourses are saturated with the fear of losing economic competitivenessFootnote27 and the massive public investments that were made in the 2000s to sustain it.Footnote28 The protection of the image of the centre is justified by its economic potential in terms of job creation, redistribution and the economic trickle-down effect.

A major reform of municipal services with regard to economic issues was thus bound to happen. In 2001, the Business Area Management Branch (BAM) was formed to promote an integrated vision of street trading, breaking with the previous silo approach and with the idea of spatial containment and restriction. The BAM, and the Department of Economic Development, fostered a spatial compromise where street trading activities could be accommodated in certain parts of the city, without endangering metropolitan economic growth. It favoured a differentiated treatment of street trading, on a locational basis. Trading continues to be tolerated in townships and residential areas, except in “immune zones” (City of Cape Town Citation2004). In commercial and business districts, trading plans confine vendors to pedestrian malls, trading areas and designated trading bays. Over the past ten years, these plans have spread to middle-class or affluent suburbs (Goodwood and Tokai, for example), as well as to former townships (Langa, Nyanga and Khayelitsha). Trading plans are supposedly designed to produce “properly planned” spaces, according to “local circumstances,” “particularly in areas where there is a significant overlap between formal and informal trading.”Footnote29 The aim is to make spatial restriction compatible with the promise of social and economic inclusion of the “informal sector.”

To conclude, a genealogical account of the governing of space demonstrates that the modernist planning obsession has never faded since the 1920s. However, in the 1920s–1930s, zoning and planning instruments were aimed primarily at managing flows and traders’ mobility. During apartheid, as mobile trading declined in the city centre, these instruments were reworked from a functionalist and racial perspective, to promote a coercive vision that almost banned street trading from the centre. In today’s Cape Town, locally based spatial restrictions and authorisations seek to reconcile local economic development imperatives and the protection of the city core’s image with the positive national macro-economic understanding of the “informal sector.”

Biometrics: governing individuals

Biometric registration is the third instrument that has been used in Cape Town since the early twentieth century to control street trading. It is an area of expertise developed in South Africa since colonisation, and it was perfected under apartheid (Breckenridge Citation2014). In this section, we examine the ups and downs of biometric and individual registration of street traders in Cape Town since the colonial era. We examine the tension among surveillance, policing and governmentality they conveyed and we show how this tension has been reconfigured throughout time, as these instruments have evolved technically.

Identifying, policing and punishing

In Cape Town, biometric registration of street traders was introduced as early as the end of the Victorian period, in 1906. Individual criminal records were systematically checked by the police who issued “certificates of good character” to the people who wished to apply for a Municipal Hawkers’ Licence.Footnote30 Anthropometry and the emerging technology of fingerprinting were used, and files of criminals and traders were methodically cross-checked. After 1912,Footnote31 traders had to wear a badge on their left breast displaying their name or registration number. These technologies, designed to strengthen and facilitate police and client control over individuals, were ultimately geared towards protecting White society and its urban territories from what was perceived as mounting Coloured criminality, in a city that was growing rapidly. This ambition for control stumbled on the complexity of trading practices, which were not yet defined as informal: traders depended on numerous unregistered assistants; licences were shared among family members; it was not unusual for children to work … Footnote32 However, even if the control of individuals was ineffective, this mattered less than the actual effects this control had on society. Biometric identification produced political effects of categorisation, recognition and discrimination between the good and the bad racialised subjects. It corresponded to the emergence of the social figure of the Coloured man, idle and potentially criminal (Dooling Citation2018), as opposed to that of the “registered vendor,”Footnote33 frequently referenced in the archival material.Footnote34 These contrasting social figures also stood at the centre of major political controversies and public debates. Coloured traders in particular were suspected of taking advantage of their profession to break into homes and commit theft.Footnote35 Fingerprinting was expected to “raise the character and moral standard of those engaged in this trade” and keep away “unsuitable applicants.”Footnote36

This profoundly racialised debate regarding the respectability of vendors reflected the state of power relations and social hierarchies in an urban society that still held very colonial mentalities, and was highly preoccupied by what was perceived as “the problem” of Coloured criminality. In 1916, a deputation of White farmers from Kuilsriver who used to sell their products directly in Cape Town objected strongly to giving their fingerprints and wearing the badges, a disposition that they found “humiliating.”Footnote37 In 1918, a major political controversy arose around fingerprinting among the Indian trading community, who considered themselves fully fledged citizens of the British Empire and also rejected the idea of being treated like criminal Coloureds.Footnote38 They petitioned the City and secured support from their local councillors to oppose the measure.Footnote39 What was at stake was the issue of political (in)equality of distinct subjects of rights, and therefore political citizenship, in a city where the Electoral Franchise remained for Coloureds and Indians. In 1919, fingerprinting was abandoned thanks to this political mobilisation,Footnote40 but a system of individual identification continued for Coloured and Indian traders, and under apartheid was pursued by means of attaching a compulsory photograph and individual signature to the badge (Tabe Citation2014).

From biometric records to governmentality

The early twentieth-century debates around street traders’ respectability were rekindled with the loosening of regulation in the late-apartheid period. In the late 1980s, biometric identification and individual registration no longer existed, as licences had been abolished. Moreover, the figure of the respectable informal trader emerged in the liberal press, regularly featuring portraits of deserving Black and Coloured traders.Footnote41 However, street trading also continued to be associated with images of disorder, fuelled by the fear of accelerated urban and social change (Popke and Ballard Citation2004). In Cape Town, the municipality had launched an ambitious programme to pedestrianise the city centre, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce (Morange Citation2016). In a retail study (Cape Town Chamber of Commerce Citation1987), the Chamber coined the expression “pavement activities” to connect distinct problems and criminalise them as a whole (“street crime, vagrancy, informal trade, prostitution, littering, street children and related pavement activities”). The early 2000s were thus marked by hesitations about the place of vendors in revitalised central public spaces, in a climate of institutional uncertainty surrounding the creation of the CoCT.

In this context, identity checks (through ID books or residence permits) were reintroduced, as well as the certification of the applicant’s good character by consulting their criminal record. A system of online self-declaration was introduced, where traders who applied for a municipal permit had to register via a centralised database managed by the CoCT. Individual registration still works today as a form of identity check with a very basic biometric form of control (ID books are checked and a photograph is required). However, it is no longer run and operated by the police. The traders themselves have become the operating managers of their own registration. They are invited to navigate a geo-referenced system where vacant trading bays are displayed in real time. As if playing a game of Monopoly, they are encouraged to grab the best spots on a first-come, first-served basis and to conform to the logic of inter-individual competition. This geographic information system is accessible only to Cape Town taxpayers, identified by their “business partner number,” which is found on their municipal account bill. To access the online registration system, one must have a computer (smartphones and tablets do not support the interface) and an email address, thus demonstrating a reasonable degree of insertion into the digital economy. This digital interface euphemises the violence of control and reformulates citizenship in terms of access to economic (and not political) rights, contingent on the scarcity of the resource. Registration and individual control no longer echo issues of discrimination based on race, political rights and belonging to a local political community, in stark contrast to the debates of the colonial era regarding Coloured and Indian traders. Rather, they are based on the economic status of applicants, who must prove that they are unemployed, and the “system” selects the best applicant, i.e. the person with the highest score based on socio-economic criteria.

The “deserving hawker” of the colonial and Union eras has become the law-abiding informal trader, a small entrepreneur, unemployed but economically responsible for themselves, eager to integrate into the urban capitalist economy, a man or woman who manages to successfully navigate this individual scoring system. The political controversy regarding citizenship, biometric records and police control under colonisation and apartheid has been replaced by a discourse on the social inclusion of “informality” through good economic behaviour. However, to be eligible for a permit, one must be a South African citizen or hold permanent residency. This social archetype is spelt out in tautological formulas: “in order to qualify for a permit, the applicant must be an informal trader”; “the permit-holder is an informal trader who has been granted a permit by the City to conduct informal trading.”Footnote42

The obligation to conform to a certain idea of the “good” trader is achieved not so much through the quieting of dissent as through the construction of internalised behaviours, which are more powerful than the compulsory wearing of a badge. This shift corresponds to the introduction of participatory techniques to govern informal trading, which can be related to neo-liberal forms of political subjectivities achieved through the governing of the self and the internalisation of social norms rather than through coercion and repression (Lindell, Ampaire, and Byerley Citation2019; Morange Citation2015; Citation2016; Wafer Citation2011). The social figure of the “informal trader” is connected to an individual’s ability to manoeuvre the scarcity of trading space offered for competition among traders.

To conclude, biometric registration was introduced in Cape Town to facilitate police control. It sparked a political controversy in this deeply divided and racialised urban society, concerning citizenship and the political inclusion of street traders in the local constituency. Today, biometrics have been discarded but the rationale of identification and record-keeping is sustained through an online self-registration system. This system no longer generates political debates around issues of citizenship, political rights, surveillance and policing, the way it did from the 1910s to the end of apartheid. Rather, it contributes to shaping the social figure of the “informal trader” as both a deserving poor and skilled entrepreneur.

Concluding discussion

Throughout this paper, we have emphasised the colonial and apartheid continuities in the governing of street trading in Cape Town, in contrast with the narrow focus on the entrepreneurial turn of the 2000s that dominates neo-Marxist accounts of neo-liberalisation in Cape Town. Trading permits, trading plans and individual registration seem to reactivate or replicate the trading licences, spatial zoning and biometric recording of the colonial and apartheid eras. The impression of a current neo-colonial disciplining of street trading is reinforced by a certain continuity in the bureaucratic vocabulary and by the fact that present municipal by-laws draw from colonial texts (for example, the term “nuisance” is taken directly from the 1930s). Moreover, the governing of street trading is not entirely free from the colonial and apartheid repressive and coercive logic of control. The occasional raid by traffic officers occurs. They control the identity of permit holders, fining those who violate the by-law or the assistants who operate without a permit. City planners still embrace the old ideal of spatial control, and the racial dimension of the problem remains intact, although it is euphemised (“historically disadvantaged individuals” are given priority for obtaining permits).

Nevertheless, close empirical scrutiny of the evolution of the political meaning of technical instruments specifically has shown that they are now used within the framework of a neo-liberal rationality of government. Technical continuity does not mean mere continuation or replication of the past in the present. In terms of permits, the local government restricts the freedom to trade in the name of building a sustainable informal economy. This logic has replaced the liberal rationality, which prevailed in the colonial era and – up to a point – during apartheid, of taxing a freely exercised economic activity. As far as space is concerned, in colonial Cape Town, zoning instruments were forged to regulate flow and mobilities and control public space, a logic that took on a racial tone during apartheid. Today, locally based economic development objectives have become central in planning approaches. Zoning instruments are geared towards protecting the economic value of the city centre, a key territory for the metropolitan strategy of economic growth. In terms of individual compulsory registration, a dispositif of self-compliance aimed at fostering the “conduct of conduct” has replaced the biometric surveillance and direct policing of behaviours in the racially segregated colonial urban society.

Originally, the three instruments were crafted by contrasting levels of government and actors, reflecting their particular capacities and the sometimes complex articulation between the three domains: the province introduced licences to regulate economic competition and the municipality resorted to zoning instruments to control space, while individual registration used to be the domain of the police. Today, the three dimensions of the “problem” of street trading – the governing of numbers, of space, and of individual identity – fall for the first time under the sole responsibility of the CoCT, a powerful metropolitan authority responsible for building a thriving regional economy. With this neo-liberal rescaling of public action (Brenner Citation2004), municipal authorities can now restrict the number of vendors. They do so in the name of a territorialised metropolitan agenda of economic growth and not for reasons of public order, traffic or hygiene. This neo-liberal rationality is rooted in a new moral economy. The restrictions on street trading are justified by the alleged trickle-down effect expected from economic growth. Individual identification, so contested in the 1910s for political reasons, is justified by a sense of social justice, against illegitimate/irregular traders who continue to trade without a permit. The limitation of the number of permits, criticised by liberal proponents until the 1940s, is now presented as a means of ensuring the prosperity of “informal traders.” This change of terms is not merely cosmetic. It signals an evolution in the way these activities are viewed by both national and local states and are integrated into growth agendas. The Indian or Coloured citizen who sought recognition and political inclusion in the colonial society and who rebelled against biometric registration has been replaced by the “informal trader,” a new political subject, still partly racialised, an entrepreneur in and of him/herself, respecting the spatial restrictions imposed on him/her in the name of metropolitan growth.

Finally, the governing of street trading exemplifies the fact that neo-liberalisation does not necessarily rely on the invention (or importation) of new instruments, or on radical administrative reforms, to operate: instruments and the rationality of their uses are indeed two different things. Using Foucault’s genealogical approach and his theoretical definition of neo-liberalisation, focusing on the “reprogramming” of technical tools, as suggested by the sociology of instruments, casts light on neo-liberal transformations that would otherwise go unnoticed, and at the same time allows the proper assessment of what remains of past temporalities in our present neo-liberal era. Neo-liberalisation in post-colonial contexts thus appears better understood through fine-grained empirical accounts of the uncertain transformations of the rationalities of public practices, rather than via a posited radical and visible shift in public policies, such as that offered by the (neo)Marxist critique. We suggest that Foucault’s definition of neo-liberalisation and method can aid in developing a theory of change for post-colonial contexts. This approach would be particularly useful and relevant for other issues raised in post-colonial situations, where technical continuities are often analysed primarily as neo-colonial resurgence.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Additional information


This work was supported by the City of Paris/Ville de Paris under its “Emergence” Research Grant “Droit à la Ville au Sud, 2014–2018.”

Notes on contributors

Marianne Morange

Marianne Morange is a professor of geography in the Department of African Studies, INALCO, and a member of UMR CESSMA-245. She has worked extensively on South African cities regarding issues such as housing policies, urban regeneration and security governance. Most of her recent publications question the urbanisation of neo-liberalism in Africa.

Sophie Didier

Sophie Didier is a professor of urban studies at the Paris School of Planning, and a member of Lab’URBA. She was previously the director of IFAS-Research in Johannesburg. Her publications deal with the circulation of urban models and the long-term analysis of growth coalitions, backed by an interrogation of the neo-liberalisation of global urban governing practices.


1 Personal interview, 2009.

2 In this article, we understand street trading as the variety of uses (fixed or mobile) of public space for commercial purposes.

3 Stamp Act 3 of 1864 and Act 20 of 1884 Tariff 15, amended by the Hawkers’ Licences Tariffs Act 35 of 1906 promulgated by the government of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. “Hawker” is a colonial term designating a mobile street trader.

4 These tensions were particularly visible during the year 1914, in the aftermath of the creation of the Union, when the municipality submitted its Municipal Ordinance No. 10 of 1912 to the approval of the Executive Committee of the Province of the Cape of Good Hope. See the correspondence between the Town Clerk and the Provincial Secretary. The Ordinance was eventually published in the Provincial Gazette of 15 May 1914, under Notice No. 131.

5 From the mid-1910s, the “general dealer” was opposed to the hawker in local Ordinances as well as in the administrative vocabulary (see the General Dealers and Other Licenses Amendment Ordinance 29 May 1914).

6 Cape Argus, 30 November 1932, “Quota Scheme for Licences. Opposition to Hare's Plan.”

7 See for example Cape Times, 16 September 1932.

8 Report of the South African Police district no. 1 to the Town Clerk, 3 October 1928; and Memorandum of discussion with regard to the general position of hawkers and pedlars in Capetown, held at the City Hall on 25 October 1932.

9 Minutes of the ordinary meeting of the Trade, Licences and Shop Hours committee held at the City Hall, Capetown, Monday 26 September 1932. On the public controversy, see for example Cape Argus, 9, 14, 15 and 20 September 1932; Cape Times, 16 and 20 September and 12 and 24 October 1932.

10 Circular No. 47 of 1932, Provincial Government, Office of the Administrator, Cape Town, 29 August.

11 See the Registration of Business Provincial Ordinance (1 January 1954).

12 Report of the Town Clerk to the City Council, 9 July 1968.

13 Business Licensing Division, City of Cape Town, 1988.

14 The Star, 17 April 1989.

15 Cape Times, 8 April 1989.

16 See City Planners’ Department (Technical Management Services), 1987 report.

17 Personal interviews with members of the Business Area Management Branch, 2009, 2010.

18 This vocabulary was used by a large number of stakeholders: petitioners complaining to the City (see for example Letter of the Mowbray and Observatory Ratepayers association to the Town Clerk, 11 July 1928), the Medical Officer of Health (Memorandum to the Town Clerk, 20 March 1928) and the municipal committees and services (Streets & Drainage committee meetings held on 6 June 1927; Traffic Department, minutes of a meeting held on 9 September 1935) a well as the African Railways and the harbour authorities (letter to the Town Clerk, 12 April 1933).

19 Minutes of the meeting of the City Council held on 6 June 1927.

20 Municipal Ordinance of 1912 and Licences Consolidation Act No. 32 of 1925, as amended by Act No. 26 of 1927.

21 Memorandum of the Medical Officer of Health to the Town Clerk, 21 September 1926 regarding the inspection of hawkers’ hand carts and barrows. “Genuine hawkers” were contrasted with those who had “gone so far as to convert their barrows into stalls and surround the barrows with boxes of fruits.”

22 Report from the Trade, Licence & Shop Hours Committee to be submitted to the council on 27 May 1926.

23 Municipal Regulation No. 1945 amending the 1912 Ordinance (Tabe Citation2014, 81).

24 Despite recurring conflicts between the provincial council and the local council on this issue (see for example a report of the Town Clerk regarding the creation of stands for pedlars and fruit hawkers in the central city area, in July 1968).

25 PN 136/1999 (City of Tygerberg) published in the Provincial Gazette of 23 April 1999; PN 522/1996 (Cape Town Municipality), published in the Provincial Gazette of 13 December 1996; PN 633/1998 (South Peninsula Municipality) published in the Provincial Gazette of 20 November 1998; PN 282/1999 (Blaauberg Municipality) published in the Provincial Gazette of 27 August 1999; PN 76/2000 (Helderberg Municipality) published in the Provincial Gazette of 10 March 2000; PN 290/1998 (Oostenberg Municipality) published in the Provincial Gazette of 29 May 1998.

26 Financial Mail, 4 December 1992.

27 Clive Keegan, chairman of the Executive City Council, Cape Times, 19 April 1995, mentions the risk to “lose competitive edge.”

28 See for example Cape Times, 6 October 2005: “this investment [is] in danger of being wasted if the area [is] not properly maintained”, and “a mismanaged central city would impact negatively on the rest of Cape Town”; or Cape Times, 6 September 2005: “investors evaluate a city’s potential by measuring the success of the central city” (D. Bock, central city security manager).

29 Informal Trading Policy 2004, 7.

30 Hawkers’ Licences Tariffs Act 35 of 1906.

31 1912 Municipal Ordinance No. 10, published in the Provincial Gazette 15 May 1914, under Notice No. 131.

32 The 1920s and 1930s were marked by internal debates between administrations regarding the protection of traders’ children (see for example letter to the Town Clerk, 19 June 1931).

33 Section 180 of the 1912 Municipal Ordinance stating that traders had to bear a badge bearing this inscription.

34 The expression was used mainly by the police (see for example Report from South African Police District commandant to the Town Clerk, 3 October 1928).

35 Deputy Commissioner G. D. Gray, South African Police, letter to the Town Clerk, 18 April 1916.

36 Deputy Commissioner G. D. Gray, South African Police, letter to the Town Clerk, 18 April 1916.

37 Memorandum of Councillor Sir John Graham to the Town Clerk, 10 April 1916.

38 In 1917, an Indian hawker from Maitland who had been a resident in South Africa for 18 years objected to having his fingerprints taken (Letter of the Town Clerk to the South African Police, 4 December 1917).

39 Minutes of a meeting that took place at the City Hall (March 1918) following a letter of protest by Indian traders sent to the Town Clerk.

40 G. D. Gray, Deputy Commissioner, South African Police, Western Division Cape Province, letter to the Town Clerk, 27 April 1918, in which he objects to this decision.

41 See for example The Sowetan, 4 December 2001 (letters to the editor).

42 Informal Trading Bylaw, approved 20 March 2009, C 66/03/09.


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