Lockdown a blow to business

The Constantia Emporium was empty on Monday April 13 as most closed were closed.

Non-essential businesses have reacted with shock to the extension of the national lockdown, some fearing it will be the end of them.

Addressing the nation on Thursday April 9, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We all want the economy to come back to life, we want people to return to work, we want our children to go back to school, and we all want to be able to move freely again. But our immediate priority must remain to slow down the spread of the virus and to prevent a massive loss of life. We must do this while preventing our economy from collapsing
and saving our people from hunger.”

Phil Gelman owns Caterkid, a Kirstenhof catering and events company. Last week, he had
R130 000 worth of cancella-tions.

His business relies heavily on university functions, so it’s taken a blow from the cancellation of graduations. There are also many events at this time of year, during a final push before winter, but all those have dried up with the extension of the lockdown, and Mr Gelman is having to refund corporates.

Some had been understanding and had only asked for part of the refund, he said.

“Most of our turnover starts in the first month of winter. I’m not really worried about now; I’m worried about how we’ll recover later on.”

He’s also worried about possible further extensions to the lockdown.

Mr Gelman is continuing to pay his two employees and plans to apply for state relief to survive the lockdown.

President Ramaphosa said the state would provide support to businesses in distress, workers facing loss of income, the self-employed and informal businesses.

To prevent job losses, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) had R40 billion to help employees unable to work and by Thursday had paid out R356 million, he said.

However, Carolynne Franklin, who owns The Curtain Company and Interiors in Westlake, fears the extension of the lockdown will sound the death knell for many small businesses, including hers.

“This extension has thrown us into a bit of a pickle. We don’t have the resources to be able to continue paying our staff on a limited basis.”

They had applied to all the relevant authorities for relief, she said, but it had been a “paper work nightmare”.

She started the business in 1988.

“We’ve had some hiccups along the road, but this is going to be particularly difficult for us.”

People right now would be spending on food, security and shelter, so it would be hard for her to recover even after the lockdown, she said.

The company had tried to make the best out of a bad situation, she said, by making masks, but she and her business partner had no other income and feared for the future.

But while lockdown has been deadly for some businesses, others appear to be thriving.

Marlize van Zyl, a distributor for Doggobone Active Raw food in the southern suburbs, can still make deliveries under the essential-goods regulations.

“I am incredibly blessed and have been even busier during the lock-down. My clients have been terrific and have supported me without fail, and I have even picked up some new clients as well.”

President Ramaphosa said the Small Enterprise Finance Agency had approved a six-month postponement of loan repayments. Small-business debt relief and business-growth facilities were reviewing applications for R500 million in available aid. And

the Reserve Bank had lowered interest rates and taken steps to inject liquidity into the economy.