Victoria Street Market

The Victoria Street Market has a rich history that reflects the struggles of a poor community striving for their own identity alongside a strong need to survive economically. The market was founded by ex-indentured labourers who created their own employment as market garden farmers. Initially the grounds of Grey Street mosque were used to trade, but as the number of traders grew they moved onto the streets. Traders paid a daily rental fee to the Durban Council for their commercial space, and were forced to sleep on the pavements due to the high cost of travelling home. A typical market day started at 4am and ended at 6pm, but farmers set up their stalls at 2am. Trading was done in the open, exposed to the elements, and without access to sanitation or toilets. In 1910 the municipality built a covered market in Victoria Street for Indian traders. It was known as the Top Market or Squatter Market and traders sold a variety of goods including groceries, fish, spices and crafts. Conflict occurred between “squatters” who traded outside on the pavements and stall holders, who paid rental inside the building. The community was united in opposition against any attempts to move the market, particularly from 1968 when a new freeway was under construction. The old market was destroyed by a fire that began under mysterious circumstances on 16 March 1973, which many traders regarded as an act of sabotage. The new building was opened on 23 July 1990.

Location

Address: corner of Bertha Mkhize St and Fishmarket St
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
steven.kotze@durban.gov.za
031 311 2239

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