Cape Town - Sithndathu Avenue may be its official name, but the Nyanga street has become popularly known as Ezigusheni (at the sheep’s) owing to its open-air slaughterhouse.
The livestock is brought from a Philippi farm to the makeshift market in trailers with their feet tied. Others are shoved in car boots.
At the market the sheep are put on the pavement, where “slabattoirs” - a term given to the local butchers - do the slaughtering.
On average about 15 sheep are slaughtered for each one of the 22 meat stalls where customers can buy raw or braai meat.
Stall owner Mildred Maqibi said she had been operating her meat-selling business for more than 23 years.
She said stall owners were trying to make ends meet but the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was making it difficult for them.
“We are victims of the SPCA.”
A few months ago five of her sheep were confiscated by the organisation because the animals’ feet were tied together.
“I didn’t have a business for those days until they released the sheep back to me.”
Cape of Good Hope SPCA chief executive Allan Perrins said the SPCA was against the inhumane slaughter and treatment of the animals.
“We are particularly concerned about the lack of animal holding facilities and the fact that live animals are forced to witness animals being slaughtered. We are also concerned about the manner in which the animals are transported. The problem is far more complex than meets the eye as there are multiple roleplayers, starting with the farmer/seller.”
Perrins said street slabattoires were breaking the Animals Protection Act and the Meat Safety Act, as well as breaking various health and environment by-laws
”There is an obvious health risk associated with this unregulated practise. It would be desirable to regularise affairs and this may mean having to close down street-side slabattoirs.”
Mayoral committee member for health, Benedicta van Minnen, said the city’s health department and the Department of Agriculture were looking at using mobile abattoirs at Ezigusheni in Nyanga.
“While the feasibility study is being conducted, environmental health practitioners do routine health education sessions with the traders and slaughterers, as well as ensure basic hygiene standards are maintained.”
Maqibi said stall owners were open to hygiene suggestions.
“We are also not happy with the filth. We have been pleading with the government to renovate this place to a point that we are willing to pay rent, if need be.”
Maqibi’s stall slaughterer, Sivuyile Mahlati, said he feared losing his job.
“We want to keep this as clean as possible, but we also don’t want to lose our jobs.”
Slaughterers are paid R70 per sheep slaughtered.
To keep the skin clean and safe from insects, salt is thrown over it. Every Fridays the wool is collected by a man who buys it from the stall owners for clothing manufacturing.
Regular customer Kwezi Sonti said he enjoyed the fresh meat.
“I love this meat because it’s fresh and I witness its slaughtering. You see us cultural men, we love that.”