Muthi traders in Durban protest after fire

Angry informal traders blockaded Joseph Nduli Road in Durban on Tuesday afternoon by piling up muthi sacks in the road.

They are demanding that the municipality collect burned debris after a fire swept through part of the traditional medicine market in Warwick Junction on Sunday night, GroundUp reports.

Traders, many of whom lost everything in the fire, said it was the City's responsibility to clear the burned debris.

In protest, they burned muthi in the road and what was left of their stalls. The fire department arrived to extinguish the fire and the area was closed to traffic.

"This is just the beginning. We will do it again if they continue to treat us like animals. The City doesn't take us seriously. We have so many issues that we need to address," said trader, Nomusa Ngcobo.

eThekwini municipality acting head of communications Mandla Nsele said that should a report on the Durban Herbal Market fire recommend that it be closed, the City would comply and shut down the facility.

Nolibala Sikude, a 70-year-old herbal trader, sat quietly on a sack of muthi, counting her losses.

"We started in 1987. I am one of a few people who [was] first to come here when the market was established and it is the first time in 20 years to have something like this happen," she said.

Luckily, she did not lose her trading documents and her identity document in the fire. She usually kept them in the stall but had taken them home with her on Sunday.

"As soon as the dust settles, I will go out looking for herbs to sell because this is my livelihood," said Sikude.

Chairman of the Traditional Healers Market Jabulani Gumede said 60 people had been affected by the fire.

"Many people lost everything – stock and money. Rebuilding is not going to be easy," says Gumede.

The market houses about 3 000 people, according to Gumede.

The cause of the fire is yet to be established. The guard who was on duty says he was asleep when it started.

Muthi traders are planning a march for Monday.

KwaZulu-Natal Traditional Healers Association chairman Thandonjani Hlongwane said: "It was indeed a great tragedy and loss to the traders."