‘I can no longer keep quiet’: Top economist raises alarm bells over Durban CBD decay

Litter piles up on a street corner near the Durban city centre. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Litter piles up on a street corner near the Durban city centre. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 19, 2022


One of South Africa’s foremost economists and jurists, Professor Bonke Dumisa, has raised alarm bells over the decay of the Durban inner city, saying he could no longer keep quiet.

Taking to social media on Tuesday, Dumisa, who is an authoritative economist and a magistrate, told his Facebook audience that he planned to close his private Post Office box at the Durban Main Post Office before the end of October – ending many decades of a family tradition.

“My reason for officially, permanently closing my private box at the Durban Main Post Office is not voluntary; the Durban Main Post Office effectively just stopped serving their clients with boxes there many months ago.

“We don’t know what happens to the mail which goes there because no one puts mail in the boxes anymore,” he said.

Most importantly, and writing keywords in caps, Dumisa said he no longer felt safe going to the city centre post office.The Durban Main Post Office is now literally both a SECURITY RISK and A SERIOUS HEALTH HAZARD,” he wrote.

“This used to be a major international tourist attraction landmark with iconic features with at least five major entrances which have now been reduced to only (one) hazardous entrance; this is a major security risk for a building of this size. It is now also a major serious health hazard with almost all its exterior elevations (sides) so dirty and decayed IT MAKES YOU PUKE.”

Dumisa, who is also a trained lawyer and a magistrate, said that many professionals were moving their offices away from the Durban city centre.

“I struggled for many months to easily access my legal chambers because of never-ending roadworks which took months to complete without anyone bothering to inform you what is going on and how long it was going to take,” he noted.

Dumisa also pointed to a recent report by the eThekwini Municipality which revealed that international tourism to Durban was down 82% from more than 390 000 in 2017 to less than 59 000 in 2022.

“When I read two books, Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, decades ago as a university student, I said to myself this will never happen in a post-apartheid South Africa because we would have learnt from the mistakes of other African countries liberated decades earlier like Nigeria. I WAS WRONG.

“The people I used to say these things to outside South Africa are now telling me, WE TOLD YOU SO.”

Dumisa added that as an economic analyst and a practising lawyer he avoided political commentary despite knowing that “politics and economics are siamese twins”.

“ …The deterioration of everything is now forcing me and others to say ngeke ngithule izinto zonaklala sibhkile … meaning we won’t keep quiet any longer as we see the state of decay all over.”

Over the past few months, the eThekwini Municipality has embarked on a clean-up campaign of the city centre and its surrounding townships and suburbs.

At the weekend, the Premier Soccer League team, Kaizer Chiefs, joined deputy mayor, Philani Mavundla, on the clean-up campaign.

Manvundla said the campaign was meant to keep the city clean and create awareness about illegal dumping.

“Let us not litter in our city, as during the rainy season this waste causes blockages in the stormwater systems. We must take responsibility for keeping our city clean,” said Mavundla.