They say there has been an overall decline in business and tourism while the condition of buildings has also deteriorated. Areas popular with hawkers such as Warwick Junction Market, Mahatma Gandhi precinct, Berea and Durban Workshop taxi ranks as well as bus terminals have been most affected.
Pinky Nyathela, who trades at the Warwick Junction Market, said the number of rats had tripled since she began trading in 2016. “There are more rats than usual and they are becoming bigger. They are not scared of people, they look straight at you,” she said.
Health experts said the rat infestation posed a great risk which could “explode” if not brought under control.
“The city hasn’t been very good in dealing with this problem. Rats can spread over 35 diseases and carry a number of viruses through bacteria. If an infected rat comes into direct contact with a human - through urine or droppings - it can spread diseases such as leptospira and even high fevers,” said Dr Sanil Singh, designated veterinarian at UKZN.
eThekwini Municipality has started an investigation to evaluate the extent of the problem. Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said: “If an infestation is found, a team from the relevant units will be deployed.”
He added that a survey would be conducted and, where an infestation was noted, poison bait would be applied to target the rodents until control was achieved.
Last year the municipality said it had attended to 16792 rat-infested sites. Sagren Moodley, the manager at the municipality’s Vector Control Health Unit, said rats multiplied rapidly and that one female rat could have up to 10 offspring in a litter.
This week the City said it would demolish three abandoned buildings on Wednesday, as part of its bid to clean up and rejuvenate the CBD. Mayisela said court applications were under way for permission to demolish more abandoned buildings. Thirty-nine of the 80 “bad buildings” were in the Mahatma Gandhi precinct.
Last year, the City announced it would take control of three dilapidated buildings in the city as part of its regeneration plans: West Point Lodge on Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment), the Palm Beach Hotel on Gillespie Street and the Durban Seamen’s Institute on Mahatma Gandhi Road.