Informal food traders Fhumulani Muambadzi and Manyage Shonisani were so desperate to restart their business after the easing of Covid-19 lockdown regulations they approached a loan shark to request a low-interest advance.
The duo, who operate along the busy R524 between Makhado and Thohoyandou in Limpopo, did not have funds to restart their business after five months of closure forced by Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
“We did not have any other choice. We had no other income during the lockdown and now we have to buy stock so we can start working again,” Shonisani said. Informal traders who form a large live from hand to mouth were the hardest hit by the lockdown regulations. Although the informal sector forms a large part of the economy many of their enterprises like food vendors and various sectors are not registered with the relevant government departments.
Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said she had chosen a path to assist small businesses to adapt to the new normal that required new business models. Ntshavheni said the plan entailed two phases which included Covid-19 Relief and supporting the re-start of small businesses for economic recovery.
The department has set aside R50 million to assist rural and township businesses as part of an ambitious plan to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on SMMEs. The plan included a debt relief fund catering for the provision of working capital, income protection and business survival.
Ntshaveni said the focus of the business recovery plan would be on township and rural entrepreneurship, strengthening informal businesses and localisation through targeted import replacement and supporting the utilisation of local skills and services in the infrastructure program.
Ntshaveni said as at May 8 that a total of 1 501 SMMEs were approved to the total value of R513 million.
“The value of the approval was later revised to a total R424mil across the same SMMEs as the country moved from level 5 lockdown to level 4 and ultimately level 3 due to many SMMEs being able to recommence business operations and therefore only requiring support for fewer months,” she said.
Ntshavheni said they have sent teams across municipalities to help informal businesses to register and comply with regulations so they can be included in the SMME database This may in the long term help businesses like those of Shonisani to seek assistance from more controlled and regulated entities and not loan sharks.
“The mashonisa wants his money whether business is good or not. So we have to work hard and ensure that we repay on time,” Shonisani said.
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