Durban fails to win over muthi traders

FILE PIC. A man walks past empty stalls that used to be occupied by  traders. Picture: Tracy lee Stark

FILE PIC. A man walks past empty stalls that used to be occupied by traders. Picture: Tracy lee Stark

Despite assurances by eThekwini municipality mayor James Nxumalo that plans to transform their business environment into a modern market were at an advanced stage, Warwick Triangle Junction traders – mainly dealing in traditional medicines – remain sceptical.

“I inherited this stall from my mother 30 years ago and apart from the empty promises, I have never seen an development around this area, said Thuli Dlamini, 66, an Inyanga, who sells tradition medicines at the Berea train station.

“We had already accepted that government has abandoned us – there are no ablution facilities and the place has become a hideout for criminals. Everything the mayor is saying we have heard before,” Dlamini said.

Nxumalo had told hundreds of informal traders during a meeting at the Curries Fountain Stadium in Durban yesterday the municipality was fast-tracking plans to develop the business precinct.

“We will make sure that traders operate in decent stalls with running water and other services that would make their lives easier. There will be parking areas, a taxi rank and modern pedestrian links that would create easier access to the area,” he said.

The precinct, which extends from Victoria Street to the taxi rank below the Berea train station bridge, is one of Durban’s historic landmarks.

A few months ago, the municipality announced it has set aside R1 billion for the development of the area.

“The Metro police are harassing us and demanding that we leave the area as most of us do not have permits,” said Cecilia Mkonde, a sangoma who specialises in traditional medicine related to sexual health.

“For many years we have been pleading with the municipality to issue us permits but up to now we are being treated like criminals. I think it is only those with permits that will benefit from the developments,” she said.

“They say they are a black government but yet they do not allow us to sell muthi from animal parts – they say we are not allowed to sell anything from an animal. It is very clear that they want to bring in their own people once the place is developed,” said Albert Hlengani.

Nxumalo told the traders to elect representatives who would present their grievances to city officials.

“In the year 2000 there were only 3 000 permits issued to informal traders but today the number is 44 000. However, we understand that there are still many people who find it difficult to trade because of permit problems and as a municipality we are doing everything in our power to address the problem,” he said.

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