Mixed feelings for Durban business owners in the heart of the city during lockdown

20 May 2020 - 10:58 By Deepika Naidoo
A police officer pursues two vagrants on foot in the Durban CBD on Wednesday.
A police officer pursues two vagrants on foot in the Durban CBD on Wednesday.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

As lockdown measures are intensified in Durban, the daily grind continues for the city's shop owners and vendors.  

Considered a “hotspot” for Covid-19, the eThekwini metropolitan municipality says several  measures have been put in place to protect the city's inhabitants.

A relaxation of some regulations under lockdown level 4 has allowed for some business activity to resume. But business in Durban's CBD has been slow for many.  

The streets in Durban remain packed with cars as the lockdown relaxes.
The streets in Durban remain packed with cars as the lockdown relaxes.
Image: Deepika Naidoo

Theo Reddy, owner of the well-established Reddy’s Bakery in Dr Pixley KaSeme Street, says that business has been down because foot traffic has slowed.

“Most of our customers and pedestrians in this area are essential workers. Our business is down by 30%-40% but I do believe keeping people safe is more important at this time,” said Reddy.

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has vowed to take stringent action as Durban has been labelled a “hotspot” for the virus. Premier Sihle Zikalala said the province was tightening the regulations with Durban’s coronavirus cases growing daily.                          

“We have decided as the provincial command council to implement an intensified lockdown for eThekwini District. We have issued a directive to our law-enforcement authorities to apply the law in its strictest form, and make sure that there are no compromises,” said Zikalala.

With fewer people walking about on the streets of Durban and metro police monitoring the activity in the CBD, Reddy has found that there are fewer altercations and there is less activity outside his store.

“Usually someone is being held up at gun or knifepoint here outside the shop at least once or twice a day. Ever since the country started level 4 of the lockdown, there has been virtually no activity outside the shop. I believe the police are doing a good job,” said Reddy.

Durbanites go about their shopping with precaution in Durban's CBD.
Durbanites go about their shopping with precaution in Durban's CBD.
Image: Deepika Naidoo

However, not every shop owner or vendor feels this way. Fruit and vegetable seller Basil Ndimande doesn’t feel truly safe.

“I do see streets being cleaned on occasion but people aren’t social distancing. Even though it has been quieter about my stall than it was before the shutdown, there are still so many people on the streets,” said Ndimande.

Ndimande says that though he doesn’t have a permit, he doesn’t have a choice but to sell on the streets.

“Whenever I see the police, I have to avoid them as I haven’t been able to get a permit in time to operate. I can’t take a day off, selling fruit is my only source of income. I have to travel from Mayville to town every day to try keep afloat,” said Ndimande.

Noor Addison, a samosa vendor who walks through the streets with his wares, believes that he hasn’t seen a difference in his business.

“It is still busy for me. I travel all over town and business is good. It’s business as usual for me. Things seem fine and normal here,” said Addison.

Though he feels safe, he says not everyone has been taking precautions. While he wears a mask and gloves to serve samosas, not all of his customers have been following suit.


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