Row over Indian market in South Africa, hawkers to move court

May 14th, 2009 - 3:40 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Durban, May 14 (IANS) A group of fruit and vegetable hawkers here are taking the local municipality to court in an effort to retain the 100-year-old Early Morning Market that was started by the first indentured labourers from India who opted to remain in the country after their contract as sugarcane farm workers ended.

The eThekwini municipality is planning to develop a mall on the site where a fifth generation of South African Indians still continue to bring fresh produce from their smallholdings for sale to the public directly, just like their forebears did for the first time in 1910.

Harry Ramlall, chairman of the Early Morning Market Association, representing nearly 800 traders, said an application had been made for a court interdict to stop the municipality moving the market to a new area where there would not be enough foot traffic to generate the livelihoods they depend on.

“Although we are not averse to development, (the municipality) did not consult us before their decision to move us,” Ramlall said.

“They have decided not to include us in the new development because they prefer supermarkets and banks in the new mall.”

The municipality plans to move the market gardeners out by the end of May, but they have said that they would resist this.

“We have been here for generations, with fathers passing down their stalls to sons for almost a century. Surely we deserve some sort of respect and attention for that?” said Anil Surjanand, adding that his maternal great-grandfather Ramanand Sewnath had been one of the pioneers of the market.

Surjanand said his family still grows vegetables preferred by local Indians, such as gourds and okra, on a small plot near Durban International Airport, which came up much later after the land was first given to Sewnath.

“(Sewnath) slaved for nearly two decades on a sugarcane farm in the Stanger area (about 50 km from Durban) before he decided to accept the offer of a piece of land after his indenture rather than returning home. I am determined to continue his legacy,” Surjanand said.

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