Political Dimensions of Urban Informality in South African and Zimbabwean Cities

Inocent Moyo, Trynos Gumbo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Considering that in Africa, urban informality is constituted by many people, some of whom have failed to secure formal jobs, as a result of political and economic problems afflicting many states, could urban informality be conceived as a site that has been or could be mobilised for political action? If so, how does this materialise and dematerialise? This chapter therefore focuses on and discusses “the politics of resistance” and the political dimensions of the governance of urban informality. For example, in Bulawayo and Johannesburg inner city the informal economic actors defied the authorities by operating in undesignated trading zones and in some cases paid bribes to the municipality police who were supposed to enforce municipality laws. However, strategies of resistance have graduated to “street politics” whenever quiet attempts failed. And in both cities the informal economic actors have openly defied the municipalities and also invoked the rights to trade on the streets by taking legal action against the regulatory regimes. For these reasons, actors in the informal economy appear to be politically conscious and active to the extent of demonstrating that they have power which they can politically and legally exercise so as to defend their economic activities on the streets. Although the municipalities may have mightier power, this is not always enough to impose their will on the informal actors, who have successfully challenged such power. In this sense we are reminded of Foucault (1978)’s assertion that power is everywhere and can be reproduced from one moment to another.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban Book Series
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameUrban Book Series
ISSN (Print)2365-757X
ISSN (Electronic)2365-7588


  • Politics
  • Resistance
  • South Africa
  • Urban informality
  • Zimbabwe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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