Businesses fear closure

Small businesses feel the pinch of the lockdown.

Small business owners are worried that they will not be able to survive the national lockdown to curb Covid-19.

The lockdown is due to end next week if President Cyril Ramaphosa does not extend it for a second time.

Camps Bay hair salon owner, Angelique Beytell-Govender, said they would appreciate government lifting the ban on small businesses.

She said they would be prepared to operate in a limited capacity such as only having one or two clients at a time because they understand the health implications and it would be up to them to ensure that everyone’s safe.

“The lockdown is detrimental to our small business. We work with people and our hands to put food on the table for our families,” she said.

Ms Beytell-Govender said she closed a week before the lockdown started.

Some of their customers were tourists and she was worried that they were losing business to those hairdressers worked on a freelance basis.

“I already feel the financial burden. I don’t know where my rent is going to come from and I had to pay my employee a full salary for the month because she desperately needs the money,” she said.

Sharing these sentiments, another hair salon owner in Gardens, Brittney Amoria, said having no clients means having no income. She said two weeks before lockdown, their clientele decreased by 50%.

“We are usually fully booked for two months, but the last two weeks before the official lockdown we lost so many clients, up to 75% in the last week before lockdown,” she said.

Ms Amoria said she has two assistants that she had to pay full salaries for the month.

“I had savings and managed to pay my two assistants. They are both sole breadwinners in their families and they’re not just losing salaries, but an additional of
R2 000 to R3 000 of tips from clients,” she said.

Ms Amoria said the government should consider lifting the ban on small businesses as it seemed like most businesses will have no choice but to shut down after lockdown.

“I tried applying for the SMME relief fund and unfortunately, I don’t qualify,” she said.

The City of Cape Town said it has requested that some businesses be allowed to operate during the lockdown.

Mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos, said he has written to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, to request a re-assessment of which businesses are allowed to operate.

He said he also included proposals on more flexible measures to allow certain businesses to continue during these times.

“This is to keep the economy going to ensure we are better positioned to deal with the major economic challenges that lie ahead once the virus is brought under control,” he said.

He said while they commend the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus and will fully cooperate with the regulations, we need to be mindful that it is potentially economically unsustainable and could ultimately lead to more disastrous unintended economic consequences.

Mr Vos also proposed that Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) especially those who employ 10 workers or less, are allowed to continue running, regardless of the sector. He said these businesses have the flexibility to pivot, adjust and demonstrate high levels of social distancing and health control, such as hairdressing salons, plumbers, electricians and specialist repair artisans. “These industries employ hundreds of thousands of people who depend on salaries to keep their families going,” he said.

Mr Vos said it was vital that the country find innovative ways of dealing with this unprecedented health crisis and avoiding the worst impacts on the economy and the livelihoods of millions of people.

On Tuesday April 21, President Ramaphosa addressed the nation to announce economic and social relief measures to be implemented in response to pressures posed by the pandemic and the national lockdown.