Covid-19: Meat vendors stripped of their livelihood

“We understand the coronavirus is dangerous. But our children are hungry at home”

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Photo of woman holding cow feet
Ntombekhaya Paka stuck with cow feet she is not allowed to sell. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

Street vendors who sell smileys and other cooked meat at the busy corner of Johnson Road and Koyana Street in Zwide township in Port Elizabeth were dealt a heavy blow on Saturday when police ordered them to shut down their stalls because of the lockdown.

The government relaxed the rules about informal food trading earlier this month, in response to complaints by vendors all over the country. A circular dated 5 April 2020 states: “Municipalities must ensure that informal food trading (uncooked) takes place in an area specifically demarcated for such purpose; that appropriate hygiene and sanitation services and facilities are provided.”

The selling of cooked food was not included.

But the meat vendors continued selling their cooked food, until police arrived at their stalls early on Saturday morning and told them to shut down.

The vendors support their families by selling cow feet and heads, sheep heads and feets, liver and iqadidi (stew) to motorists, taximen and residents.

Nozimele Mqikela was one of those told to close down by police.

“I begged them to allow me to sell my stock because I had ordered R20,300 of meat on credit in order to sell during this Easter holiday. And my meat creditors were expecting me to repay them in instalments starting this Monday. But the cops said no, because they were following government’s law to protect us from the spread of the coronavirus.”

Eventually, she said, police had told her she could sell for the rest of the day but then must close down or be arrested.

“I really don’t know how I am going to repay my meat creditors. The police said this was a last warning because they had warned us previously. My pots and dishes are full of cooked meat while my fridge and storeroom are also full with raw meat at home. Some of this meat will rot.”

“In 37 years in this business I never experienced this hardship. I am a single parent and raising six children with the income I generate here. I used to make R3,700 on busy days. But today I only managed to sell seven stews for R50.”

“One of my children is at university and I finance his studies with this money. Now I will sit at home with no income but with a huge loss,” she said.

Ntombekhaya Paka of KwaZakhele township said, “I don’t know how I will feed my eight children. Police say they will arrest us if we continue to sell our smileys here again. We understand the coronavirus is dangerous. But our children are hungry at home.”

“It would be better if government could compensate us during this lockdown,” she said.

Lindiwe Nunu of Rolihlahla township said, “I am a breadwinner and mother of five. If I don’t come and sell here my children will die of hunger. I am stuck with 35 raw sheep heads, feet, and ten cooked heads. And I have no one to sell to.”

TOPICS:  Covid-19

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