Cape Town-100507-Adderley Street flower sellers.Then and Now comparison- .Picture: Melinda Stuurman

Cape Town - Insead of flower petals, President Jacob Zuma can expect to see “middle-fingers” when he rolls into Parliament for the State of the Nation address on Thursday, which is also Valentine’s Day.

Flower sellers at the Trafalgar Place Flower Market in Adderley Street are fuming because they have been told the busy road will be closed on Valentine’s Day to make way for the president.

“It’s our Christmas Day,” said Dawud Saliem who has been working at the market all his life.

“It helps us get through the difficult winter months.”

From 4pm on Thursday, Adderley Street will be closed to the public, with the road only set to open again at 9pm.

Saliem, who is a third-generation flower seller, said most of his Valentine’s Day business came from people leaving work in the afternoon.

But with the road closed he felt people would turn to ordering flowers from florists.

“It was convenient for them to come here, but now they won’t be able to get across,” he said.

Saliem said most of the sellers had to order their Valentine’s Day stock a month in advance and they would be stuck with expensive bouquets that would have to be thrown away.

“I’m in a situation where I’m making a loss,” he said. “Instead of this being my biggest day, I’m going to lose thousands.”

“We miss out on all that money so he can drive along the road for five seconds,” Saliem added. “Zuma mustn’t be surprised when he sees us showing him the finger.”

Delia Gamieldien, who has also been working at the market her whole life, said the city should have consulted the sellers and made provisions for the financial hit they would take.

“At least let us provide the flowers for Parliament,” she said. “But no, they go to the big florists and ask them to arrange it.

“We wait for this day every year and now it’s ruined,” she added.

Seller Sandra Bosman said she had stocks of Valentine’s Day gifts she wasn’t sure she would be able to sell.

Gareth Bloor, mayoral committee member for economic, environmental and spatial planning, said the responsibility to make any alternative deemed necessary lay with Parliament as the road closures were its decision.

But as a courtesy, because the city sympathised with informal traders, it had let vendors know about the road closures last week.

“We will be following up (Monday and Tuesday) to make sure everyone knows,” he said.

Parliament said the issue of the flower sellers had not been formally raised with it and it was unaware of the issue.

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Cape Argus