When it comes to shopping at Pepper Grove, it’s a case of getting in and out as quickly as possibly.
Fezekile Cokile investigates a key contributing factor to this situation – a distinct lack of public seats.
I’m at Pepper Grove Mall, trying to find a bench to sit on – which turns out to be as difficult as finding a Golden Ticket. There are none here, except for one seat outside Pep that is meant for RhodeTrip passengers only.
Siblings Noluvuyo and Ntombozuko Madida are sitting on this bench today. They are not waiting for a bus – they are simply eating their lunch.
This one bench is commonly used by Mall workers, especially during lunch time.
“We need more benches here. Where are the others going to sit?!” Noluvuyo said.
Noluvuyo works at Rhodes and usually eats lunch on campus, but because she and Ntombozuko went shopping, the sisters decided to rest and eat their lunch in the sunshine.
Meanwhile, a worker from Port Elizabeth, *Jabulani Sibalo, is delivering alcoholic beverages at the Mall. The lack of benches means he’s forced to eat his meal standing up. For Sibalo, it would have been “convenient” to have a place to sit.
Pick ‘n’ Pay employees spend most of their lunch breaks behind the supermarket, sitting on upturned black crates – not only to enjoy their meals, but to also play a game of dominoes in the shade.
One employee in particular, *Nomathemba Siqala, said “You have no choice but to sit here, although this is not a suitable place because we are constantly moved.”
Their chosen seat is unsuitable because it is on a private lawn and the homeowners often come out to tell them to move away from their property.
Albert Arch, who also works at the supermarket, sees things differently. “There is no need for benches in the mall, especially for Pick ‘n’ Pay workers,” he said.
Apparently, workers have a ‘canteen’ at the back of the shop. However, other employees describe this space as nothing more than a “storeroom” full of boxes.
“It is an unsuitable place to be in on a hot day,” Siqala said.
As a result the male employees, like *Chris Jeffries, take their crates under the tree near Seventh Day Adventist Church, and enjoy a game of dominoes there.
Jeffries argues that the Mall should provide benches for employees, but is quick to point out that “parking is more of an important issue than benches.”
Admittedly, Pepper Grove is a small mall with very limited space, but the RhodeTrip bench outside Pep is an example of how to optimise the space available.
Erecting a few benches here and there would not cost substantial amounts of money, and the development of rest spots would benefit both Mall customers and employees.
*Not their real names
Nompilo Mncube took pictures of the areas of Pepper Grove Mall and Church Square and compared the two public spaces.