Cape Town – Fleamarket traders are trickling back to Greenmarket Square in the city’s CBD in an effort to eke out a living in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown that has seen borders closed and tourists all but disappear.
Previously, traders had to contend with hundreds of refugees living in and around the area, and now they are similarly struggling to make sales.
Originally from Senegal, Babacar Ndiaye, 40, said these were the worst conditions he had experienced since he set up a stall on Greenmarket Square in 2005.
“We’ve never had this before and it’s not something we planned. It just happened. We didn’t expect it,” he said.
“Some people make some sales, but not on my side. I haven’t sold anything, but I have to be here because I have other connections and people who buy my products and resell it somewhere.”
During levels 4 and 5 of the lockdown, Ndiaye said he had to use his savings or borrow money from friends and family to survive.
Paul Ebrahim, 31, from Malawi, added: “For us traders it is very difficult to survive. We were just sitting indoors. We were not doing any business.
“This year is difficult for us because you know there were the refugees that were there, they were also affecting us, so we didn’t make anything.”
Mar Hiam, 40, also from Senegal, returned to work last week: “I was at home and after one month things were not okay for me.
“I wanted to open because maybe you make something, and sometimes you come and then nothing.
“People don’t care to come around to the market. It’s not easy, now it is winter time. Every year in winter it is not okay, and then this pandemic. For us, you need to help.”
Saliou Gassama, 25, said: “It has never been like this before. Now it’s very tough, no customers and no tourists. We just come to sit here, and later on we pack up and go home.”
Gassama said many of the traders had dependants back home who were suffering because they were unable to send them money.
Xolani Nodendwa, from the Eastern Cape, added: “Sometimes we get money from our bosses for food. That’s the way we have been surviving. We are just advertising now. Maybe two or one (customer) will come for the whole day.”