HISTORY SERIES: FMF marches in support of informal business

'Verwoerd is smiling on us in Sandton'

The ghost of Hendrik Verwoerd must be walking through Sandton with a broad grin on his face, says Leon Louw, of the Free Market Foundation and the Informal Business Forum.

"They have turned the place into a White Group Area with all signs of Africa removed. It is all whites, and the only blacks are servants," he said.

And to protest against the police cleaning "street traders off the streets like litter" for the World Summit, Louw plans to bus a thousand traders into Sandton next Wednesday to stage a protest.

Louw said he hoped that, after the march, the traders would stay on to "defy the law by resuming sales of their Cokes and curios to delegates".

He added that removing street vendors was a contradiction of the summit's goals because free enterprise was what development should be all about.

Louw's Informal Business Forum has organised a campaign by traders to charge the metro police with theft for allegedly seizing their wares and forcing them off the streets.

"The summit organisers are trying to turn Johannesburg into a Disneyland fantasyland. Summit delegates won't realise they are in Africa," he added.

Louw was speaking at the launch of the book Sustainable Development - Promoting Progress or Perpetuating Poverty? brought out by the Sustainable Development Network.

The book's editor, British economist Julian Morris, said the summit was based on the definition of sustainable development as being development that met the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs.

However, he explained that it was impossible to know what the needs of the future would be because needs changed dramatically over time with the development of new technologies.

Morris added that by mandating certain technologies, such as renewable energy sources like dung and wood, the "environmental imperialists" were not helping the poor.

In India, these "environmentally correct" technologies were responsible for massive air pollution in areas that would be far better off using gas or electricity, said Morris.

His book presented an alternative development model, based on a bottom-up approach of allowing individuals to pursue economic activities freely.

First published by IOL on 20 August 2002


Background on the event

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002 at the Sandton Convention Centre, attracted hundreds of politicians from around the world and some 22,000 other participants. It has been described as one of the largest political gatherings at the time. The Summit was convened to discuss sustainable development and led to the adoption of the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development.

Among other things, the Declaration affirmed a commitment by the “peoples of the world” to sustainable development and recognised that “poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns and protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development” are the most important objectives of sustainable development.

The event also attracted protests. Carl Death wrote in 2010 in African Affairs that between 20,000 and 25,000 people marched from Alexandra to the convention centre to protest the event. Many of these protesters sought to highlight the extravagant and expensive United Nations event held in upper-class Sandton situated right next to Alexandra – a hub of unemployment and poverty.

Among the many factions was a march arranged by the Free Market Foundation in conjunction with the Liberty Institute against the Johannesburg authorities’ decision to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against street vendors and hawkers around the Summit area. Naomi Klein reported on this in The Nation in August 2002, writing that “Vendors and beggars have been swept from the streets, residents of squatter camps have been evicted (many have been relocated to less visible sites, far from busy roads).”

For more information: https://academic.oup.com/afraf/article/109/437/555/104078, https://www.thenation.com/article/booby-traps-rio-10/, http://www.un-documents.net/jburgdec.htm

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