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Interlacing threads of public space, local governance and street trading: a case of Ray Nkonyeni Municipality.

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2022

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Abstract

Street trading may offer a viable mechanism to fill the gap in the national efforts to eliminate poverty and unemployment, given the insufficient employment prospects in the formal economy. This is largely due to the significant socioeconomic impact the informal sector, specifically street trade, in this case, has on the lives of many South Africans. This study sought to explore how Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality managed potential conflicts between its obligations to promote socioeconomic development and the challenges brought on by the continued growth of street trading; how street traders perceived how the municipality was managing street trading; and what conflicts, tensions, and alignments manifested in the process. This qualitative case study research sought to explore, describe and apprehend how street traders made sense of their experiences of street trading within Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality, using semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and document analysis. The findings of this study imply that street trading, as a component of the informal economy, offers a genuine opportunity and inclusive mechanism for resolving the deficiencies of the formal economy. However, as the findings of this study demonstrate, conventional notions of street trade cannot provide a suitable means of enabling municipalities to execute their developmental role in fostering local economic development. For instance, findings reveal that while there was hope that street trade was developing into a crucial tool for guaranteeing economic inclusion, there were still several obstacles that prevented its success in the context of local economic development. For example, one of the primary issues, as stated by both the street vendors and the municipal was the second-grade status afforded to street trading as a socioeconomic contributor. Thus, as argued by Lefebvre (1991), to capitalise on the potential of street trading as a viable socioeconomic booster, municipalities and street traders must actively mobilise and manipulate spatial elements. Thus, it is recommended that street traders organise themselves into associations so that they can voice their concerns as a group; that municipalities must, with support from national and provincial governments, set up mechanisms to enable street trading to become a serious contributor to local economic development; and that street trading is recognised as a legitimate vehicle for fostering local economic development.

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Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

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