Many businesses that were not fortunate enough to benefit from various relief funds made available by the government due to the Covid-19 pandemic, had to fend for themselves. For some, it was easier said than done, and for others, it was near impossible. One entrepreneur who lost total confidence in the government is Scelo Mzimela.
Mzimela said that thanks to the Sekela Hospitality Support Programme, he did not have to weather through the storm on his own. The programme is supported by Siqalo Foods, RCL FOODS, Your Food Partners and Bidfood provide current black-owned hospitality businesses with the back of house training, business coaching, access to capital and business stimulus packages.
Speaking to Vutivi News, Mzimela who is the founder of Ilanga Elihle, a company that provides catering and canteen services in Durban and Cape Town, said that his business was struggling to stay afloat. Mzimela said that although he has been in business since 2007 and has seen rough days, nothing prepared him for the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector.
“Business was good before Covid-19 and we would have bad days, but they were manageable,” he said. “Even at the start of the lockdowns, we thought that we could weather them. When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the 21-day lockdown we believed that we could handle it and I was able to pay my employees’ salaries.
“However, when the lockdown was extended, it became increasingly difficult to manage,” the business owner said. Mzimela applied for all the relief support funds made available by the government, but each time he hit a brick wall. “I would not even get a single response – not an SMS, or a phone call, or an email – nothing,” he said.
He received some money from the Unemployed Insurance Fund, but it could only support him for a month. “This made me lose confidence in the government and declare that I would no longer approach the government for help,” Mzimela said. “When I heard of the Sekela Hospitality Support Programme, I knew that I had nothing to lose and applied.” The programme not only provided him with funding but also back-of-house training and business coaching.
“Their timely intervention refreshed my business and I am confident that we will have a better chance this year,” Mzimela said. During the festive season, the programme was extended to launch the “Zwakala, Good Times on Us” Campaign. It invites South Africans to support SMMEs. In return, they have an opportunity to win 15 R1000 vouchers which can be redeemed from beneficiaries of the programme.
“We are here to support the country’s hospitality industry and want to invite all South Africans to support small businesses to collectively help them thrive,” said Stewart Jones, who is the customer marketing executive for Food Partners.
“We will be asking consumers to choose their favourite participating food, bakery, or accommodation establishment and to engage with them on social media to stand a chance to win vouchers to have a safe good time at their favourite local spot, by adhering to Covid-19 regulations.” It runs until February.