The flea market, set up around the library lawns on Main Campus at the beginning of each term, is organised by the SRC with the assistance of the Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU).
According to Siddeeq Omar, SRC entrepreneurship and skills development portfolio holder, students have a chance to buy whatever they need and like at the market. “It’s up to the willing buyer to decide whether to buy knockoffs (due to freedom of enterprise). This is South Africa, you can’t put constraints,” he says.
Omar says the market encourages entrepreneurship within arts and crafts, jewellery and winter apparel. He claims it’s a beneficial event as it generates SRC funds and income for the vendors. “It enhances the social activity and creates a culturally diverse atmosphere.”
George Maina, one of the store holders who often shops at China Mall and China City Wholesale Market behind Ellis Park, sees no wrong in selling fake goods.
“At the end of the day, it’s just money,” Maina says. But the vendors claim they don’t attempt to deceive the consumers into thinking they are purchasing legitimate items.
Maina and his 23-year-old colleague, both from Kenya, say the products are more expensive at shopping malls “just because of the label”, but they are “the same quality, the same stuff” as products sold on campus.
Besides, shop owners have to pay for rent, electricity and staff, they say. They claim shops often buy goods from the same place as street vendors.
Students interviewed said they were aware that the products were not legitimate but didn’t think this was a bad thing. Third year construction management student Phendla Phendla says the market on campus “makes life easier because I don’t have to go all the way downtown” to shop.
Caroline Mahani, 1st year law, says: “I love fake stuff, because it’s much cheaper and more affordable.”