Hopes Go Up in Smoke: A Migrant Street Trader in Durban, South Africa

Sarah Heneck

Citation: Heneck, Sarah. 2021. Hopes Go Up in Smoke: A Migrant Street Trader in Durban, South Africa. WIEGO Workers' Lives No. 13. WIEGO.

For immigrant street traders in Durban, life was hard and lean before COVID-19. When South Africa imposed a strict lockdown in response to the pandemic, their earnings dropped while costs soared, making their lives more difficult than ever.

Nokwanda (not her real name), who arrived in South Africa from Malawi in 2016, said she was afraid to apply for any government relief funds because she is an economic immigrant without a work permit. Instead she used her savings to survive, putting a swift end to her dream of a trip home to see her children in 2020.

Also, like most women informal workers, Nokwanda’s household and care duties increased during the lockdown. She is thankful for the strong connections she has formed with her neighbours who are also immigrants, but she thinks their situation is going to get worse because of the impacts of the pandemic.

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