“I have not sold a single item in the last two days. Business has been very bad for us, as fewer people now come to the beach,” said Thokozile Shinga, 58, who sells African traditional garments.
Shinga, who has been plying her trade along the beachfront since 1979, said the past two years have been the most difficult.
“In the nineties business was very good for us. I even sent my kids to private schools with the money I made here. People were always in a festive mood and would just buy and buy. Those days are gone and even the few that buy demand massive discounts. With the Easter weekend around the corner, we hope things will improve a bit,” she said.
Vincent Sibiya, 54, who offers rickshaw rides along the beach, said he could hardly afford the bus fare to KwaMashu, where the father of five lives.
“I inherited this business from my father, who used the money he made to raise us in Nongoma. Although I hardly came to Durban in those days I knew he had a good business because we never starved: he sent us money and groceries every month. But today I cannot even raise R15 for bus fare,” he said.
Sibiya, who charges about R40 for a 200-metre ride, said he didn’t bother to go to school because he knew he was destined to pull a rickshaw.
“I wanted to be like my father and raise my family from this business. It was a mistake. Now I’m trapped, as I cannot find any other job since I’m not educated.”
Like Shinga, Sibiya is hoping business will improve over Easter.
“At least you also get tourists coming – some of them as far as Germany and France. Most of them pay well,” he said.
Thulani Zulu, 33, who sells belts, said tough economic times had forced him to work double shifts. “During the day I sell belts and at night I operate as a car guard. It’s the only way I can raise money to at least buy something to eat,” he said.
The beachfront is one of the main tourist attractions in Durban. In 2010, the eThekwini municipality launched a programme to teach vendors foreign languages in a bid to create a tourist-friendly city. ”
Because of that I now have many friends worldwide,” Shinga said.