DURBAN CBD: THE REAL SOUTH AFRICA
By: Chelsea Pieterse
“Workshop, Workshop! Going to Workshop?” a taxi screeches to a halt on Anton Lembede Road, the old Smith Street, booming music from its windows, loud enough to vibrate through you, ready to burst through your chest. “Workshop, Workshop!” The conductor whistles as the taxi driver waits patiently for his conductor to round up passengers along the brilliantly coloured stalls down one of Durban’s many winding streets. This is the Durban Central Business District (CBD).
Broad pavements glistening with sweaty grit and traditional medicine pamphlets lead on to pedestrian walkways, dangerous to navigate even when the light shines its brilliant green for people to cross. Shops blaring old Nigerian movies on tiny television sets are set intermittently between bright stores and street vendors always haggling to make a sale.
“They always play the same movie, every day. And Nigerian films are the worst, they show a scene of a car driving for at least 20 minutes,” complains a young Zimbabwean student of the Durban University of Technology, Tanyaradzwa Nyamapfene, who walks the CBD streets regularly.
The pulse of the streets is made up of racing taxis, the self-acclaimed kings of the Durban streets, rickety vans and gleaming luxury vehicles speed down the twirling streets while brightly coloured stores selling clothes, carpets, food and hair services line the pavements.
“It’s more congested here in town;
“The Durban CBD is what makes Kwa-Zulu Natal. It holds promise and the opportunities are endless,” continued Mdu as he stares around at the other stalls through the grey Durban mist.
The congested walkways separated by the roaring streets house the heart of South Africa’s beloved rainbow nation. Makeshift churches in grimy rented stores are dotted all over the city, home to an array of religions and majestic voices, their songs carried on the night breeze, as the sun goes down.
The Muthi Market, is a lively, and vibrant community, hidden from view to the untrained eye. Unfairly condemned as too dangerous for the ordinary street walker to venture into, this community, situated at the back of the West Street Cemetery is a hot spot of culture, tradition and heritage.
The Muthi Market is a trusted community when it comes to the distributing of traditional medicines. The Muthi Market family is close knit and suspicious towards outsiders, sometimes even coming across as slightly hostile, however, a friendly smile and gently showing interest towards the community’s products and hard work will earn one a spot amongst the Muthi family.
An integral part of the Durban CBD experience is our much spoken about public transport system. One has not fully experienced Central Durban’s delightful and exciting atmosphere without climbing into a rickety taxi with a makeshift steering wheel or a door that’s falling off its hinges with the vehicles stereo blaring music with so much bass the taxi’s whole structure shakes.
A once sheltered video tech student from the Durban University of Technology, living in Chatsworth, had much to say on his experiences with the Durban transport system. “Traveling through the CBD during the first few years of university has taught me a lot. Looking back, I wouldn’t know many things I know now about the city and the rich culture if it weren’t for public transportation,” says Brandon Padayachee.
“I think the CBD has amazing potential, a little clean up here and there, (without destroying the rich culture) would do wonders for Durban and its tourism. A few systems need to be out in place regarding safety but besides that I think we have a pretty sweet deal,” continued Brandon
“The people you come across on a daily basis are strange and interesting. Nevertheless, travelling through the CBD is a wonderful experience. Each day is unique and different and turns commuting into an adventure.”
Inner Durban is riddled with beautiful sights, unique to each day. Stepping out into the Durban CBD, pulsing with life and culture is a brand new adventure every day. The sounds are the same but the people and the smells and the sights all change and take on a sort of magical element that grips you and leaves you in awe.
Inner Durban is a true representation of South Africa. The city has raw culture and does not hide behind pretentious clean modern European buildings. Every building in the inner city is both old, and crumbling with decades of history. The only new buildings you will see are the shiny office blocks which are few. Inner Durban is alive and real. One can taste what it means to be South African in the inner Durban atmosphere as you walk down the crowded streets. There is no city to be prouder of than our very own Durban CBD.