INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Lopsided Battle for Future of Durban's Warwick Junction

Published: Mon 31 Aug 2009 04:37 PM
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SUBJECT: LOPSIDED BATTLE FOR FUTURE OF DURBAN'S WARWICK JUNCTION
REF: DURBAN 37
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1. (SBU) Summary: A multimillion dollar project to develop
Durban's Warwick Junction is facing opposition from small
traders who claim the mall will end their livelihoods. The
decision by the City of Durban to demolish the historic Early
Morning Market has led to numerous confrontations between the
city and the market traders. Anti-Indian sentiments expressed
by ANC politicians during a public forum stand in stark contrast
to the ANC's multi-racial credo. End summary.
Background/History
2. (U) The Warwick Junction is located on the fringe of Durban's
central business district (CBD). It was designed as a railway
transport node at the turn of the 20th century and also
functioned as a buffer between white people who worked in the
CBD and black commuters who used the trains. As early as 1890,
Indians began trading fresh produce in the area, and in 1910 the
Early Morning Market (EMM) was built as a permanent marketplace.
The junction has grown in use over the years, and over 400,000
commuters pass through the area every day. There are now over
600 traders who operate at the EMM. In the early 1990s, black
vendors began trading informally outside the market. It is
estimated that over R1 billion ($122 million) in cash exchange
hands every year in the EMM area - most of it untaxed. Although
Warwick Junction remains a vital transport and trading hub, it
is has become crime ridden, treacherous for pedestrians, and
run-down.
Durban Has Ambitious Development Plans
3. (U) The eThekwini Municipality (of which Durban is a part)
has decided to raze the Early Morning Market as part of the
Warwick Junction Development (WJD) plan. According to remarks
by Durban City Manager Mike Sutcliffe during a municipal
presentation attended by Pol/Econ Assistant, the municipality
and developers intend to invest R1.5billion ($186 million) into
the area over the next two to three years. The proposed
development, the first private sector endeavor in the area for
many years, will bring together under one roof a regional
mini-bus taxi rank (stand), banking centers, a post office, and
retail stores. The WJD plan also aims to reduce crime in the
Warwick area; create economic opportunities for both informal
and formal trade; enhance the tourism potential of the area; and
provide commuters with a safe, reliable, and efficient public
transport infrastructure (Reftel).
4. (U) The City of Durban argues that the area is long overdue
for development and that all stakeholders will benefit from the
proposed changes. Also, developers claim that the feasibility
study they conducted indicates strong local support for improved
shopping and transport services. Sutcliffe told local media
that the 400,000 commuters who pass through the Warwick area
every day are the city's main concern. `Every single day there
is at least one person who is killed or injured in road
accidents in that area. We need to sort out how we arrange the
trains, buses, and taxis to make it safer. We have always
wanted to develop this area, but the funds were not available.
Because of the upcoming World Cup, the national government has
made the funds available for the development of roads.'
5. (U) Sutcliffe maintains that it is unfortunate that the EMM
will have to be destroyed in order to make way for the new
shopping mall, but that many traders will be accommodated in the
new mall when it is complete. Street traders will be
accommodated in the new development in a public square within
the mall with better trading and lock-up facilities, said
Sutcliffe to local media. During construction, the eThekwini
Municipality plans to move traders to a location 300 meters away
to continue trading.
Traders, Civil Society, and Academics Oppose the WJD
6. (U) Early Morning Market traders and their supporters from
civil society (including the influential Legal Resource Center)
argue that the WJD will end their livelihoods. They have vowed
to do whatever it takes to oppose the destruction of the market.
Chairperson of the Early Morning Market Traders Association
(EMMAT) Harry Ramlal told a local radio station that about 5,000
people directly and indirectly employed through the EMM stand to
lose their jobs if the market is demolished. Ramlal said many
of the traders have worked in the market all their lives and
have no other employment options. Prominent anti-apartheid
activist Fatima Meer has accused the City of Durban of
infringing on the rights of the poor by being `short-sighted'
and `undemocratic' in its decision to demolish the 100-year-old
market heritage site. Civil society groups in KZN including the
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Centre for Civil Society at the University of Natal and Centre
for Public Participation have also spoken out against the
destruction of the market and support the traders. Top KZN
academics and almost 600 others have signed a petition opposing
the destruction of the market.
7. (U) Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal, the province's heritage
conservation agency, has promised to take legal action against
the municipality should the historic market in Warwick be
demolished. (Note: Amafa's council is appointed by the Premier
of KZN and the quasi-public agency is funded through a grant
from the premier's office.) In March, the eThekwini
municipality applied to Amafa to demolish the EMM, but Amafa
rejected the application. Amafa's Built Environment Head Ros
Devereaux explained that the application was rejected because,
although the WJD plan was in the pipeline for two years, Amafa
only heard from the developers in March of 2009. Durban City
Manager Sutcliffe has since questioned Amafa's jurisdiction in
the matter, and the eThekwini Municipality has filed a court
injunction to get the rejection overturned
Clashes, Tough City Action, and Court Delays
8. (U) On May 26, protesters marched to city hall and presented
to city representatives a memorandum demanding that the EMM not
be destroyed. On May 30, EMMAT was granted permission by the
City of Durban to hold a peaceful sleep-in at the EMM; but
during the night, city police stormed in and forcefully removed
everyone. On June 2, city officials announced that all EMM
traders had to carry identification and trading permits in order
to gain access to the market. On June 3, all traders were
required to fill out affidavits detailing how and when they
acquired their trading permits. The eThekwini Municipality then
used this information to designate as illegal those traders who
had obtained their permits through subleases or via family
members. The municipality also implemented a strict one-stall,
one-vendor policy that prevented vendors from sending in relief
persons when ill or needing a food or bathroom break.
9. (U) On June 12, Durban officials closed down the EMM despite
a court interdict allowing legal traders to operate. Vendors
and their supporters protested for three days outside the
market. On June 15, police opened fire on the demonstrators,
and nine traders were injured by rubber bullets. On June 17, a
court order allowed only 260 `legal' vendors to resume trading
in the EMM, but `illegal' vendors protested and continued
trading outside the EMM. On June 22, KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize
formed a Provincial Task Team (PTT) headed by MEC (member of
executive committee, a provincial minister) for Economic
Development and Tourism Mike Mabuyakhulu to develop a solution
to the EMM situation. The PTT recommended that legal trade
continue until a final resolution was developed. On June 24,
EMM traders refused to sign an agreement that would have granted
them temporary trading rights at a new site and allowed for the
destruction of the EMM. On July 3, city officials evicted all
crate movers, upon whom EMM traders depend to move their goods
in and out of the EMM. On July 10, a court order reinstated the
crate movers.
Anti-Indian Sentiments Voiced
10. (SBU) On July 17, eThekwini municipal leaders held a public
meeting attended by the Pol/Econ Assistant and at least 600
other people with the aim of allaying concerns about the WJD
plan. Durban Mayor Obed Mlaba opened the meeting with an
address in Zulu and accused `certain business elements' of not
wanting to give up control of the Warwick and of hiding behind
the plight of poor vendors. Chairperson of eThekwini Business
and Market Committee Faso Majola spoke after the mayor and said
in Zulu that, `Indians only want to protect their interests in
the Warwick area and they don't want township people moving in.'
Head of eThekwini Business Support and Markets Philip Sithole
declared that, `Let us take the food from the mouths of the
Indians! Now is the time for Africans to be in power! We will
remove them all and replace them with blacks!'
11. (SBU) The official translator for the public meeting arrived
after Mlaba's speech, but he did not translate any subsequent
negative comments about Indians. When members of the Indian
community took to the podium, audience members attempted to
drown them out with shouts and boos. `Go back to Bombay!'
shouted many audience members. Deputy Mayor and ANC stalwart
Logie Naidoo, who is of Indian descent, was present for the
event but claimed afterwards that he was not aware of any
racially charged comments that were `allegedly made.'
Opposition to the WJD plan alleged that the eThekwini
Municipality bused in hundreds of pro-WJD supporters and
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rewarded them with food afterwards. Pol/Econ Assistant noted
that the audience members were not affected traders or consumers
but rather people who lived in townships outside of Durban.
When Pol/Econ Assistant asked a few of the attendees if they had
any interest in the EMM, they said no and that they had just
been summoned to a meeting.
12. (U) On July 24, the eThekwini Municipality filed an
interdict to close down the EMM effective July 31, but EMM
traders ignored the interdict citing their own pending court
order. On August 12, Sutcliffe announced that the WJD mall
would be redesigned to include a new EMM to house all legal and
so-called `illegal' traders. `We will regulate all the
so-called illegal traders. We will give [the new agreement] to
all the illegal traders in writing that nobody will be
unemployed or left out on the street. We have bent over
backwards to accommodate everyone,' said Deputy Mayor Naidoo to
local media.
Provincial Government More Conciliatory, Suggests Solution
13. (U) On August 27, MEC Mabuyakhulu announced at a public
meeting attended by over 500 people that development
negotiations between the eThekwini Municipality and all affected
parties must be reopened but settled by September 30, 2009.
Specifically, MEC Mabuyakhulu recommended that: all `illegal'
venders be given permits to trade; developers accommodate all
vendors in their mall design; the EMM structure be incorporated
into the design of the new mall; the practice of subleasing
trading stalls within the EMM end; the appeal against AMAFA's
refusal to allow destruction of the EMM be settled; the
already-started environmental impact assessment be completed;
and a memorandum of understanding between all affected parties
be signed. More broadly, the MEC tasked his own department with
finalizing a province-wide informal trade policy. Pol/Econ
Officer and Pol/Econ Assistant noted that Mabuyakhulu was firm
in his condemnation of the `racial overtones' that has marked
the WJD matter. `The task team is extremely concerned about
this as it is divisive, and we warn against any parties who
racialize the debate,' Mabuyakhulu stated.
Comment
14. (SBU) The anti-Indian sentiments expressed by local
ANC-appointed leaders and supporters during the July 17 public
meeting stand in contrast to the multi-racial ideals of the ANC.
The provincial level condemnation of such behavior, however,
suggests that the party is keen to rein in such divisive forces.
Nonetheless, at its core, the WJD is about the displacement of
South Africans of Indian descent by black South Africans. The
WJD plan is backed by the ANC, and it is simply a matter of time
before the EMM is changed forever. Indians are increasingly
becoming marginalized in Durban and their political influence
has diminished over the years. The Indian vote does not appear
to matter much to the ANC in the eThekwini region because of the
KZN ANC's strong support for President Zuma, a son of the local
soil. And those Indians who remain loyal to the ANC appear
reconciled to this. No ANC member of Indian descent (with the
exception of Fatima Meer, who is no longer active) has spoken
out against the proposed WJD plan or any anti-Indian sentiments.
DERDERIAN
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