Namibia: COVID-19 Wrecks Kapana Business

26 March 2020

The market for fresh, wood-roasted beef popularly known as 'kapana' at the Single Quarters in Katutura is usually a beehive of activity frequented by locals and occasionally European tourists in search of exotic African cuisine.

Anxious clients usually stood shoulder-to-shoulder jostling for pieces of mouth-watering beef served straight from the grill but the coronavirus pandemic has seen a dip in the numbers of people patronising the popular beef market.

The global pandemic that the WHO and other prominent health experts have projected has yet to peak is not only exacting a grim human toll but has devastated small businesses such as the kapana market in Katutura, and tourism is also expected to bear the brunt of this virus that is like no other.

Vendors at the Single Quarters said Covid-19 has drastically reduced the numbers of customers, a situation they describe as abysmal.

According to Nghikushi Parasius, a kapana vendor for seven years, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of customers since the day President Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency with effect from March 17 after the country registered seven positive cases of the virus.

"In the past one could sell one whole roasted carcass in a day. But now customers are no longer forthcoming. It now takes two to three days to sell a carcass. It is worrisome and if the situation worsens that means this open market will close and we will go hungry," lamented the kapana trader. Kaka Kamandora, another vendor, said that although there are prescribed measures to protect themselves many people involved in the kapana sector do not use gloves, face masks and hand sanitizers and operate under unhygienic conditions. "This is a competitive industry - when you see people you hold up the meat and cut it. You initially cut a roasted piece for the customer to taste before they buy. After the customer pays, you put money in a bucket and start chopping the strip of meat into smaller pieces. Just after you finish with the first customer you cut again giving other customers to taste. That makes it difficult to wash your hands every time," Kamandora explained.

He wishes the government finds other alternative measures to ensure people involved in their type of business can continue plying their trade unhindered.

However customers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, feel kapana businesses should be closed down until the situation normalises.

"If you see the way people are operating here it is difficult to impose those measures on our people. I think the City of Windhoek should close down the market for now and then open it after some time," suggested a customer. New Era spent about 30 minutes at the open market observing the situation but hardly saw vendors and their customers washing or sanitizing their hands.

Contacted for comment the City of Windhoek spokesperson Lidya Amutenya said she was in a meeting and promised to call back but she never did. -ljason@nepc.com.na

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