The council vs the common people: the case of street trading in Johannesburg

K. S.O. Beavon, C. M. Rogerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Set against the general literature of the 'informal sector' and more particularly that of street trading, an historical study of on-going struggles between Johannesburg's communities of street traders and the municipal authorities over the legal conditions of such trading is presented. The study is set against the backdrop of a racially segregated urban environment and of the imposition of increasingly tight regulations on 'non-White' South Africans living and working in a nominally 'white' city. Two interlinked case studies are reported in order to illuminate the complex pattern of interplay between local authorities and the coffee-cart traders and the flower sellers over some sixty years. The demise of some 2000 coffee-cart traders is reported and linked to the 'war' on street traders 'waged' by the municipal authorities, a campaign that also resulted in severe restrictions and considerable financial costs for the flower sellers. Particular attention is paid to the manner in which the street traders resisted the local authorities by contesting matters in Courts of Law. The study illustrates the theme of disadvantaged communities fighting a struggle for survival against the will of the local State and poses a cautionary note on the prospects for an about-face in the attitudes of the local authorities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-216
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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