A TALE OF TWO BEACHES
Durban’s southern promenade is the go-to hangout for locals and traders
For Vika Nyawo, Durban’s southern beaches are not about swimming, lazing around in the sun or cycling along the beachfront’s landmark promenade. For him, they are about the splendid legacy of the mad rush of infrastructure upgrades that took place in 2010 ahead of the Fifa World Cup.
To the 45-year-old father of two from KwaMashu township’s L-Section, the stretch of the city’s Golden Mile – running northwards from uShaka Marine World and past Addington Beach to South Beach – represents a means of survival and of providing for his family.
Nyawo has been hustling with a wheeled cooler box selling cooldrinks, sweets and ice lollies on this stretch of beach since 1992, long before uShaka was built or the rundown Golden Mile got its face-lift.
Nyawo is eating an Eskimo Pie from his own stock, but his focus is not on the Wednesday afternoon heat.
Nyawo’s concern is raising registration fees for his boys for January and, more immediately, making the R450 he needs to pay the eThekwini municipality on New Year’s Day for the right to park his cart on the Upper Marine Parade and ply his trade.
Nyawo makes the payment twice a year, unlike the horde of street traders who spring up on his turf every December for their bite at the tourist rands that are spent in the city every festive season – something that gets up his nose.
Last year, more than R3 billion was spent in the city by the 7.4 million tourists who visited, according to Brand SA.
“I do not mind that I pay the city, but they are doing nothing to stop the people who just come and sell here in the festive season without paying [to park their carts]. It is unfair. The city does not help us,” he says.
Nyawo’s cart is overflowing with candyfloss, sweet dummies and crisps. His nephew Sifiso, who dodges the camera, runs Nyawo’s second ice cream trolley and a stall with braaied mealies and slices of pineapple, plain chilli or sweet spice.
“This is our busy time,” says Nyawo. “We can make as much as R1 200 a day. This time of year we can sell everything. The rest of the time we are quiet, [earning] maybe R200 to R300 a day and about R500 a day on weekends.”
On New Year’s Day last year, 30 000 people descended on Durban’s Golden Mile beaches. This year, city authorities expected even more people.
Most of the tourists, in particular white and/or foreign ones, head for the city’s northern beaches or Umhlanga, says Nyawo. “There are those who come for uShaka, but most tourists no longer come to the south. Here it is the locals or tourists from South Africa.”
A short distance away, Frans Mthethwa (49) is also making a living off the beach. He works as a labourer for the seine netters who launch and beach their boats at Vetch’s Beach south of uShaka, and he fishes for the pot. He has also created sand sculptures under the pier outside Moyo restaurant.
His current work is titled Julius Malema Being Eaten by a Crocodile for His Big Mouth and S***ting His Pants. It is a dramatic sculpture, fashioned from an old pair of jeans, sand and seawater.
He scans the area for people taking pictures without paying. “You got an expensive phone but you want to steal my thing!” he bellows at a middleaged Indian man snapping his sculpture with an iPhone 6. “Throw something – even 50 cents, lahnee. Don’t be like that.” A handful of coins drops from the pier. “Some days are good here and I can make R300 to R500. When it’s swak [weak], R60. I don’t have a job. I make beautiful cupboards but I cannot get work, so I make these with sand and seawater. Sand and seawater, bra.”
Ashin Sanichur, a Durban teacher, is spending the day at the beach with family and his friend pastor Brian Kannapathu from Pinetown. He feels that although the beaches were opened to all in the early 1990s following the Defiance Campaign to force the end of apartheid segregation of amenities, the divisions are still visible.
Addington Beach, 50 metres to the north of where they are sitting, was the focal point of the campaign, along with the city’s landmark hospital, which was also for whites only until apartheid fell.
“Look here,” he says, pointing to groups of people clustered along ethnic lines. “It is Indians sitting with Indians, blacks with blacks; there are hardly any whites, but those here are sitting together. There is no real integration. There is a need for social intervention to create activities that will bring people together. That’s the story you need to tell.”
Sanichur, who grew up in Durban’s Magazine Barracks – created to accommodate Indian indentured labourers – has been swimming at Durban’s beaches all his life, first at Snake Park, reserved for Indians during apartheid, and latterly at Addington and the uShaka beach.
“We used to walk from Magazine Barracks to the beach every day as kids. We grew up in the water. Today, too, we love the beach. I fish, I swim, I relax. It is beautiful,” he says.
Off the sand on a stretch of grass, Mbali Maphumulo and her friends Thandiwe Mthembu, S’ne Shandu and Nokuthula Sithole are chilling on fold-up chairs, enjoying the breeze and a relatively quiet beach ahead of the mass influx on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
The four, who have come “all the way from Folweni” about 30km south of Durban, prefer the city’s southern beaches to Amanzimtoti, which is far closer to home.
“It is very safe and beautiful here,” says Mthembu (29), a sales assistant. “Here all races are having a good time and enjoying themselves, not like Toti.
“I swim like a fish,” she beams through a gold slit while negotiating a large packet of crisps. “This beach is beautiful for swimming.”
EYE-CATCHING Impressive sand sculptures are a prominent feature on uShaka beach
ANYONE FOR A RIDE? Rickshaws dot the uShaka promenade
STAY IN THE SAFETY ZONE A lifeguard at uShaka beach ensures the crowds stick to the rules