Greenmarket Square traders vent after first facing Cape refugees crisis, now Covid-19
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday declared the virus outbreak a national disaster, in an address to the nation from the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Ramaphosa also put in place a travel ban, which will restrict tourist movement in the country. The ban has the effect of reducing business for street vendors, whose clientele are largely foreign tourists.
Veronica Ndlela said: “Our customers are those that the president is saying should not come.
“This virus really couldn’t have come at a worse time for us. I don’t know what I will do if it doesn’t go away soon. I’m really worried, business is slow”.
This sentiment was shared by most of the market-square vendors who sat solemnly in their stalls awaiting tourists on Monday.
John Moti, one of the vendors in the square, said that the situation was similar to when refugees occupied part of the square before they were evicted by the City of Cape Town.
“People are staying away, our businesses are suffering again. I am praying that something changes soon,” said Moti.
Bead-work accessory vendor Gift Jussa said: “The refugees made our customers wary to come and visit our stalls and buy from us. They crowded the place and we lost business. We were on our way to recovering; now it’s the virus. I’m honestly scared for my business, it is my livelihood”.
Vendor sisters Monica Regina and Bhibisha Kasongo, who stock everything from African print clothing to wooden statues, spoke of their fears around both their health and their business.
They said for many vendors in the area, their health was not the number one priority. “We have no choice but to show up every day and hope to sell as much merchandise as we can,” the two sisters said.
“The best we can do is to wash our hands and sanitise our environment as often as we can,” added Kasongo.
Among the concerned vendors, Limba Chisole spoke of his experience with a number of viruses in the past.
“I come from places where one of your neighbours has ebola and the other HIV.
“I have survived those viruses, I’m pretty confident that I can survive this one too,” he said.@TheCapeArgus