From coffee cart to industrial feeding canteen: Feeding Johannesburg's Black workers, 1945-1965

Rogerson, Chris
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Ready accesss to suppliers of basic food snacks and sources of daily refreshment is part of the ' taken-for-granted' world of most White workers in Johannesburg. Even for those employees whose labour situates them in areas of the city devoid of restaurants or take-away food facilities, the requirement for sustenance during the working day is readily met by the factory canteen or industrial caterer. By contrast, the adequate provision of daily feeding facilities for Johannesburg's Black industrial workforce emerged as a matter of considerable controversy and public debate, particularly after 1945. Observers of urban Johannesburg drew attention to the daily ritual of "thousands of Africans lunching on the pavements and in the gutters of the city".... In the view of municipal officials the dilemma of providing adequate food services for the Black consumer in Johannesburg could not be resolved by an informal sector or unregulated trade, such as existed with the coffee-carts. Against the role of coffee-carts as part of the solution to the wider issue of feeding Black workers in the apartheid city, the attitude of municipal authorities was that the carts themselves constituted a major 'problem'. The resolution of this problem was to necessitate the excision of the trade from the streets of Johannesburg, an event which sharply focussed municipal attention upon their former vital position in the supply of refreshment services. It is the objective in this paper to chart the transition which occurred in the feeding of Black industrial workers between 1945 and 1965 from the unofficial solution of the coffee-carts to the official blessing and promotion of factory canteens. This task will be pursued through three major sections of analysis. First, the trajectory of the twenty year struggle waged by municipal authorities against the coffee-carts will be traced. In the second section, an examination is undertaken of the several sources of objection to the activities of the coffee-cart traders, identifying the key forces and agents behind their removal. Finally, in the third section, the focus broadens to illuminate debates surrounding suggested and implemented official solutions to the question of feeding Black workers in the apartheid city.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented March 1985
Vending stands. South Africa. Johannesburg , Food service. Sanitation. South Africa. Johannesburg , Blacks. Employment. South Africa. Johannesburg