Informal Economy

The Delft Safety Group Attend the SAVI Conference and the Launch of 16 Days of Activism

SLF continues to support the efforts of the Delft Safety Group (DSG), who, together with other community based organisations, are taking the lead in advocating for improved safety and other positive social changes in various areas in Delft. The group’s work builds upon a 3-year collaborative partnership with SLF team, exploring how a participatory approach can foster citizen led contributions towards improving safety and security in Delft.


Our current project with the DSG aims to continue opening safe spaces for engagement to occur between marginalised groups and other stakeholders including peers, community, business, service providers, funders and government. The work recognises the importance of providing opportunities for citizens to speak out in inclusive and responsive spaces, to break silence and convey a collective citizen perspective around what is really happening in Delft. These opportunities are part and parcel of the journey to enable those who are most marginalized to move away from experiences of exclusion and fear, and to build sustainable and inclusive relationships with government and other duty bearers.


On Friday the 24th of November 2017, SLF and the DSG were invited to participate in a 16 Days of Activism Programme with Provincial Parliament. SLF proudly represented the marginalized voices of the Delft community whilst wearing #DelftLivesMatter T-shirts. The objective of this event was to focus on 16 Days of no violence against woman and children. The event allowed various community organisations to network towards future collaborations/partnerships and to engage in gender based work. Organisations were invited to exhibit their work and conduct short presentations. The SLF/DSG collaborative will be presenting their work at an upcoming open day in Parliament on the 9th of December 2017.


And once again, the DSG were invited to present at the Safety and Violence Initiative (SaVI) conference, on the theme of Preventing violence and promoting safety in fragile and insecure environments’. The conference took place from 27-28 November at the River Club in Observatory, Cape Town. This DSG  presentation included the first public viewing of “Be the Voice”, one of three collectively made films produced by the group this year that speaks specifically about the risks and the vulnerabilities that community leaders face at the ground level while working in places like Delft. The remaining two films highlight the life threatening challenges that young people continue to face while living in Delft, and the resilience of the human spirit – against all odds. Both of these factors play a key role in driving citizen action against the atrocities and inequalities that occur in their everyday lives.

– By Farida Ryklief and Rory Liedeman





A Conclusion to the “Addressing School Dropout” Project

In 2017, SLF Director Andrew Hartnack has been a research/knowledge partner in the DG Murray Trust’s “Addressing School Dropout” pilot project, which sought to test a number of models to prevent high school learners from leaving school early. Hartnack visited eight NGO-run projects throughout the year to document the work each was doing in schools with grade 8 and 9s. Organisations were based in Cape Town, Paarl, Swellendam, East London, Pietermaritzburg and Tzaneen.

This project yielded great insight into the varying contexts of the South African school system which make learners vulnerable to leaving school before grade 12. It also identified several innovative approaches which reduce the risks of dropout and can work to assist vulnerable learners to do better in school and complete their secondary studies. Hartnack has written several reports and background papers for the DGMT during 2017 and will be publishing some of this material in academic journals in 2018.

Philippi Trading Plan Project

October saw the Philippi Trading Plan team hold two very successful participatory design workshops. The workshops took place at a sports hall in Philippi with two different groups of street traders from Protea Road and Sheffield Road. The aims of the workshop was to get design ideas from street traders themselves as to how the environment can be improved for trading and to discuss the implications of the BRT road construction. An important aspect in achieving this was understanding what the main issues and challenges are that are keeping informal businesses from growing in Philippi. In teams, participants discussed, modelled, created, drew and imagined a variety of exciting designs both for improving the public environment as well as their individual structures that would allow their businesses to grow. The next step for SLF is to take the design ideas into consideration and, using a combination of appropriate ideas, will present a potential design back to the street traders for feedback. These workshops were thus only the beginning of a long participatory process and relationship with informal traders that will ultimately result in the conception of a vibrant street trading hub in Philippi.

-By Kayla Brown



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Building International Partnerships

In November Leif Petersen and Andrew Charman travelled to Boston, USA where they were keynote speakers at the Northeastern University conference on Social Entrepreneurship. The trip was jointly sponsored by Northeastern University in Boston and Concordia University in Montreal, where visits and meetings were also made. Leif then flew onto Washington DC for a workshop discussion in collaboration with Good Governance Africa ( and George Washington University where they discussed the role of the arts in social development with a view to developing projects together. In returning from North America both gave a joint presentation in London to an audience of development practitioners, academics and students, and Andrew shared SLFs work with colleagues the University of Sheffield. We anticipate that a range of collaborative opportunities will emerge from this highly successful trip.

-By Leif Petersen


SLF conducted the first ‘Solutions Lab’ in Johannesburg to engage stakeholders from civil society, business and government on strategies through which land can be unlocked to advantage micro-enterprises in the township economy. A second ‘solutions lab’ event will be conducted in Cape Town in late February.


Open Invitation: Presentation on South Africa’s Informal Economy

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The report shows how South Africa’s spatially unjust land use systems impact on (informal) micro-enterprises in the township context. The report illustrates the ways in which land use management systems have intentionally and unintentionally reinforced Apartheid era town planning and spatial injustices. For township micro-entrepreneurs, the land related processes which people have to navigate to obtain regulatory compliance resembles a Kafkaesque world: one in which the rules are nightmarishly complex, incomprehensible and illogical. Partly as a result of these challenges, the great majority of township informal micro-enterprises do not comply with land management system requirements and gain few to no benefits in doing so.  Township micro-entrepreneurs have no alternative to trading illegally. We refer to this process as ‘enforced informalisation’.

Based on detailed evidence, the report amplifies the argument that South Africa requires a land use system that can more effectively operationalize the principles of spatial justice and spatial resilience, whilst making allowance for economic marginalisation.  Land systems need to recognise the fluidity of urban conditions and multiple uses of land for business, social, cultural and residential purposes. The report recommends specific ways in which legislation need to be refined, including the need for urban land reform in spatial development frameworks. We recommend that municipalities should simplify land use systems and accommodate mixed land use with greater tolerance for economic activities.  Finally we call on national government to develop a policy framework on micro-enterprise formalisation, specifying land use requirements and specific additional criteria for certain classes of enterprises.

Click here to view the report.

Making All Voices Count research report

Our Making All Voices Count research report has been published.

This report draws on research that has been done at SLF within the past 6 years. It focuses on four case studies which examine challenges faced by marginalised groups and the individuals that campaign on their behalf. These groups include activists against gender-based violence, community care workers and health committee members, informal traders, and Rastafarian bossie doctors. We have worked with these groups through a range of technology-enabled participatory processes to unpack the dense and complex layers that block government accountability in South Africa.


Click here to view the report.

A New Mall in Delft South: Good or Bad for Local Businesses?

This case study was included in a collaborative submission by SLF, PLAAS, the University of the Western Cape, and the Centre for Excellence in Food Security, in response to the Competition Commission’s inquiry into South Africa’s grocery retail market. The full submission is available here.


Some years ago, the City of Cape Town sold off a 9.7 ha site adjacent to Delft, to Shoprite Checkers (Pty) Ltd (whose co-founder and Chairman Christo Wiese has a personal fortune estimated at R93 billion). In 2016 it was announced that a shopping mall would be constructed on the site, with a proposed investment of R170m. According to an article in The New Age, “The City’s property management department has been facilitating the development of this site over the past few years and has been informed that the construction of the bulk services was due to commence soon”. In terms of broader investment, it is claimed that the developer will make a R2m contribution to developing a facility of the City’s choosing, create 240 “housing opportunities” (in a private property development), and employ local labour in the “different stages of development” of the mall.


Delft Enterprises by ZoneDelft South (population ~40,000) had over 1,600 microenterprises in 2015. The City’s land use zoning regulations render the great majority of these enterprises as illegal or at least extra-legal (shown in the map alongside), hindering their potential for formalising. Despite the enthusiastic response by the City of Cape Town as to the positive impacts of the mall, there is no evidence that this development will bring about economic opportunity to any of the resident microenterprises within the Delft community. There is no mention of the mall being compelled to make space for Delft township businesses of any nature. Moreover, researchers working with township entrepreneurs (such as SLF) have not been consulted by the City of Cape Town in the approval of the mall vis a vis their assessment of the socio-economic impact that the mall could have on local businesses.


Based on the parent company ownership, it is most likely that the tenanted businesses will include some or all of the following outlets that fall within their group: Shoprite, Checkers, Checkers Hyper, Usave, Computicket, OK Furniture, MediRite Pharmacy, LiquorShop, and Hungry Lion. Supermarkets and shopping malls virtually always include high street supermarket, liquor and take-away businesses within their tenants and services. These three kinds of business outlets alone directly compete with over half the township economy.


By actively facilitating development of shopping malls in the vicinity of the township, yet making no allowance for informal business, local government and big business form a highly effective partnership to outcompete and dominate the township retail grocery sector. Further to this outmanoeuvring, the new mall will form a localised monopoly of formal retail businesses – against which no township grocery retailer can ever expect to prosper or grow beyond its current informal status. In South Africa’s economy of entrenched inequality this scenario is highly problematic.


Much of the change required to level this playing field and limit the unfairness of structural conditions falls to government. Firstly, there is a critical requirement to ease the legal and technical processes for formalisation of informal businesses to take place. This includes activities such as amending and relaxing town planning laws to incorporate the residential reality of township informal grocery retailing, and easing the requirements for permitting and licensing in order to bring township business into a regulatory framework. Furthermore, future shopping mall developments must be compelled to incorporate (eg) 25% or more space for local township businesses. Explicit provision for secure, hygienic and appropriately-sheltered trading facilities ought to be incorporated in all planning and design for retail spaces in malls, as well as around key transit nodes like bus and train stations and along high streets and similar transit corridors. Without such and other similar actions, township enterprises will never have the opportunity to legitimise and grow in the face of market dominance by formal retail chains.


Words by: Leif Petersen

Editing by: Caitlin Tonkin