Control and Repression: The Plight of Indian Hawkers and Flower Sellers in the Durban CBD, 1910-1948
Hundreds of Indians attempted to make a living on the streets of Durban as hawkers and flower sellers between 1910 and 1948 as they left plantation indentures to find work in the urban environment. An analysis of their history adds to our under- standing of the local roots of racial separation that predated apartheid policy in South Africa.1 The activities of Indian hawkers brought them into conflict with a local government committed to its white electorate. The primary theme of this article is that of state repression and attempts by Indians to forge an existence in spite of hostile state policies. There were few instances of government promoting street trading to provide employment opportunities in the absence of formal industrial development. A second dimension to this study is the racializing of politics during this period. The issues surrounding street trading were framed and conceived in racial terms. Indian hawkers turned to the Indian middle class and traders, whom they viewed as community leaders, to intervene in their conflict with the white state. This article will explore the parameters within which these racialized politics operated.