Vendors say no thanks to mall

2010-06-03 09:23

Five hundred vendors at a century-old Durban market are fighting

off attempts to raze their stalls to build a shopping mall.

The traders at the Early Morning Market won their first round, with

a court order stalling the demolition pending a court hearing in September, in a

conflict that illustrates the tensions between tradition and modernity in a

country sharply divided between haves and have-nots.

Vegetable vendor Mony Govender said: “No way, we are not going to

move. We are going to fight this here. We sell things for two rands, five rands,

we make a living for everybody, even beggars. Such prices are not possible in a


Since February last year, the city of Durban has tried to evict the

merchants from the Early Morning Market to make way for a glitzy shopping mall

in the heart of the city.

The court won the vendors a reprieve through the World Cup.

The market draws in crowds of people from the surrounding minibus

taxi ranks, a key transit point to get around the city, allowing commuters to

buy their groceries before catching their ride.

On an incomplete section of bridge, traditional healers hawk snake

skins, giraffe bones, springbok skulls and rare roots as remedies for all manner

of ailments.

But several pedestrians die there every year, hit by cars.

Philip Sithole, head of the R400 million redevelopment project,

which will include upgraded taxi ranks, said: “This area is very accident-prone.

We have to do something about it. There’s historical places everywhere in South

Africa. That does not mean that you can’t develop those places.”

Durban prides itself on the modern image fostered by its new World

Cup stadium, with its landmark arch over the pitch, as well as a sleek new

airport and improved highways.

The image of an open market with squawking chickens and dried

animals clashed with the city’s new idea of itself.

It’s a conflict that emerges across South Africa as secure and

often luxurious shopping malls spring up, even though many people can’t afford

to shop in them.

Spokesperson for the vendors’ association at the market, Vinesh

Singh, said: “I am sure there are about eight malls around us. Why build another

mall? Why create another capitalist? If you close the market, who’s going to

employ us? We don’t know about computers. We have people employed, that is all

they know. Who’s going to employ them?”

Romila Chetty, who sells candies, had hoped to organise festivities

to celebrate the market’s 100th anniversary on May 19.

She said: “We’re going to have Indian and Zulu dances. Academics

will speak. We’re going to feed everyone who wants to come.”

But her two requests to the city for permission to hold the

festival have so far gone unanswered.

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