Rising prices hit street vendors in East London

As the number of unemployed people increases, more and more people are turning to self-employment to make ends meet, with street trading one of the most common options.

TIGHT MARGINS: Street vendor Zanele Mluma sells fruit to customer, Mawande Nomnganga in Caxton Street, East London Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA

However, increases in food prices have hit vendors hard.

The Daily Dispatch last week spoke to several street vendors operating in East London, some of whom survive on selling only sweets and cigarettes.

Nonkanyiso Haltile, who sells fruit, chips and sweets in the CBD, said she had given up her job as a carer in 2006, and turned to street trading to make ends meet.

Haltile, a single parent, said she sold about R300 worth of goods a day, and with the little profit she made had to take her child to school, buy food and still provide a roof over their heads.

She said an increase in food prices had led to a decrease in business. Haltile said there was also a lot of competition, with more and more people selling the same products in the same places.

“Prices do not only go up at stores for groceries – our stock prices go up as well, especially fruit. And our customers complain,” said Haltile. “There are a lot of people setting up stands. You will find 20 vendors in the same street selling the same product.”

Thembisa Sonco from Duncan Village said she collected stock every morning from a room she rented for R100 a week to store it. She usually sets up her store by 7am to sell her goods during the morning rush hour – but so do other vendors selling the same products.

“On a good day, I sell about R500 [worth of goods] and on a bad one R100, or [make] no money at all. I have no social grant to depend on, and this is all I have.”

Sonco, who heads a family of five, said she was the only one who worked. She had to pay a monthly rent of R600, find school fees, and buy groceries and clothing for her children.

Single parent Zanele Mluma, who sells fruit in Caxton Street, said increasing prices had hit her business. Mluma, who has been trading for close to three years, said she relied on her child support grant because the street vendor business was fickle. When she started out she was selling about R800 worth of goods on a good day but that had now decreased to R300.

“In many months I run at a loss and it’s getting tougher every month. But as a parent and head of the home, you have to work to make ends meet.”

In February, Statistics SA said unemployment in the country had dropped to 26.5% in the fourth quarter. However, official figures for unemployment in the Eastern Cape put the number at 28.4%. In Buffalo City Metro, unemployment grew by a further 5.3% in the last quarter of 2016 – meaning about 26000 more people were in need of work.