It has been a bitter-sweet 70th birthday celebration for Natasha Naicker, a stalwart of the Grand Parade, who has seen the market at its best and worst.
“It was a joy to celebrate my birthday, but it is heartbreaking to see what has happened to the Grand Parade over the years,” she said. Ms Naicker first traded on the Grand Parade after the man she worked for gave her his informal business.
Before she started trading, she worked as a supervisor at Rex Trueform in Salt River.
“When I had my last baby, I left and started trading full time. I earned R7 a day – that was 40 years ago. I came here when the taxis were still next to the parade, and I came to trade, walking around with my little girl, selling socks out of a banana box.
She said it was tough to be a trader those years.
“The law enforcement at the time didn’t want us to trade here. There were many hawkers from Adderley Street and all over Cape Town – mostly men who were selling fruits and vegetables. I was only selling socks. “When I found this space next to the public toilet, I started trading here, and the authorities objected, but I kept on trading. As a single mother, I looked after my three children and sent them to good schools, and my daughter is now in Brazil.
Last week, Ms Naicker was treated to a party on the parade by the traders and the Grand Parade United Traders’ Association (GPUTA), of which Ms Naicker is a site manager.
The chairwoman of GPUTA, Roshieda Muller, said celebrating Ms Naicker’s birthday was a very important day for the organisation, as she was a stalwart among the traders, and had shown great compassion and commitment to development and protection on the parade.
Our market consists of 80 traders and if you look at the bigger picture and the family businesses here, there are hundreds of people that sustain their livelihood from the trade on the Grand Parade.
“Natasha, being our site manager of the Grand Parade, is a lady that is here from 5am or 6am in the morning till 6pm from Monday to Saturday. She runs her own business here but she is also the person that looks after rules and regulations here.
“She’s one that sees that traders have spaces to trade, that permanent traders set up in their permanent spaces and casual traders get a chance as well.”
However, Ms Muller said, despite the efforts of GPUTA and Ms Naicker, there are problems which have resulted in the Grand Parade becoming a “dull space” ridden with crime over the years.
“We have very big problems with drug peddling, crime, shoplifting and stealing. We don’t have that very enabling environment that we need. We do not have the capacity to implement security.
“The City of Cape Town promised us two dedicated law enforcement officers, but the dates keep moving. On numerous occasions I have reported the incidents to the City and the police.”
She said one of the reasons that Ms Naicker is so important to them is that she performs some of the duties of the police and law enforcement when it comes to protecting the Parade and the traders.
“Being on this market for over 40 years, everyone knows her and (the criminals) scatter for her, but it cannot be expected of her. She has over the years realised this is a no-nonsense game. And this is her market, she protects it. We are asking her to take it easy because she’s not so young anymore, but we are all very proud of her.”
Ms Naicker said while it was a joy to be part of the Parade for all these years, she’s disappointed in what the space has become. “I’m so disappointed in the drugs and prostitution and street children who leave their mothers’ houses to come live and sell themselves on the Parade.
“They need to put someone here 24/7 and see how these children and girls can stab someone or even pickpocket somebody, which I see every day. They smoke drink and do whatever they like and this is not their space.”
She said when she first came to the Parade 40 years ago, it was a beautiful place to visit. “I never saw any of this. I used to walk from where I lived to the Parade, buy my lunch and sit here and walk home any hour of the night. It was a joy, people from all over Cape Town came to shop here.
“The parade was full, but now people are afraid. You get pickpocketed in a split second and tourists are a target – they get robbed here every day. They will rather visit Greenmarket square, but we have creativity here too, people sell art and beads and clothing. But we can’t make money.”
During the time the CapeTowner met with Ms Naicker, she was greeted by many passers-by, and pointed out some of the known pickpockets and drug dealers who loiter on the Grand Parade.
She said most of the loiterers and dealers are known by the police officers, but they don’t patrol the Grand Parade often enough to catch the dealers in action.Ms Muller said the issue of drugs is very real on the Grand Parade and the station deck and that Ms Naicker was the eyes and ears of the Grand Parade. “She is our grand old lady of the Grand Parade but she’s not getting any younger. She’s been trying to retire, but that commitment keeps her coming back. She has a living here. Her children were raised raised on this market, and they went to good schools because of the work here. We wish her well. I think she will make it to 100 years old – on this parade.”
The CapeTowner sent the City of Cape Town detailed questions about their plan for the Grand Parade, but these were not addressed. Richard Bosman, the executive director of safety and security, said only that “there are regular joint operations between the CCID and the City Law Enforcement, which have resulted in arrests”.
“The visibility of these agencies has had a positive effect. Operations and patrols are ongoing. Law Enforcement as well as City Health and Solid Waste Inspectors monitor compliance with the City’s by-laws,” he added.