Durban – A once-bustling flea market in the heart of Umlazi has now become home to drlavatories and the untidy stalls are covered in filth.
It has also attracted rodents and snakes, which has caused many traders to abandon their stalls.
According to Eunice Nombika, one of the few who still runs a food stall, the area degenerated when the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) stopped the payment of social grants at its office near the market late last year.
Nombika said the decision was a big blow to traders who had stalls because they could no longer afford to pay the monthly rental.
While pension payouts no longer took place at the office, people still visited the building to apply for grants.
Nombika said traders witnessed grannies visiting the offices becoming victims of crime.
“Gogos coming to Sassa to reapply for grants were not safe.
“Incidents of mugging and stabbing have escalated ever since the area became neglected.
“It is no longer safe shopping alone late in the afternoon,” she said.
Nombika pointed to a thicket where a brown snake glided out.
She said snakes chased the rodents, which fed on the garbage.
Nombika said although her business has taken a knock, she still has loyal customers who buy a plate of phuthu and mfino (herbs) from her every day.
Another trader, who has a fruit and vegetable stall, blamed eThekwini officials for not prioritising refuse collection.
She said filth had driven away customers. She pointed to about 30 empty stalls and claimed that each was occupied with different products.
“As a result, nobody would like to buy fruit from a filthy place. The centre has lost its spark. It is slowly declining to a haven for crime.
“Each stall is used as an accommodation by notorious whoonga addicts who sometimes get involved in bloody fights over territory,” she said.
Amon Dladla, ANC ward 82 councillor, said the property belonged to Ithala Bank.
He said eThekwini Municipality incorporated the area as part of a clean-up of Umlazi.
“We are working on it after a series of meetings, the cleaning will finally begin in earnest,” Dladla said.
The municipality and Ithala Bank did not respond at the time of going to print.