By: Anna Majavu
The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) strike in Cape Town has caused long-term damage to small township businesses, with township economy associations demanding that the Western Cape government compensates SMMEs for their losses. Small businesses were forced to shut their doors and informal traders had to vacate the streets for eight days in Philippi, Nyanga, Langa, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, with many also being looted and vandalised. British doctor, Kar Hao Teoh, was shot dead during the strike after getting lost leaving the airport.
Vukile Siyaka, who owns Mzansi Restaurant in Langa, said although the strike only lasted eight days, he has had no business for two weeks.“Small businesses in the townships were affected the most and the strike is still affecting us. We had all our bookings cancelled. Just yesterday (days after the strike ended), 20 guests postponed saying they were still uncertain. They asked how safe the township was since a British doctor was killed,” said Siyaka. But the provincial government is refusing to roll out a financial relief package. “Given the vast scale of the violence that marred the minibus taxi strike, the Western Cape government does not have the resources to provide assistance to all SMMEs impacted by the stay-away and the unrest,” Premier Alan Winde’s spokesperson Regan Thaw told Vutivi News.
Thaw said these businesses should visit the provincial economic development and tourism department’s website and see what existing support they could access. This was unacceptable, said Siyaka and Mzoxolo Kutta, who is the chairperson of the Khayelitsha Business Forum. Kutta also owns the Khayelitsha-based Nkomshish Laundry Services SMME and said the eight-day closure has had a longer-lasting impact.“Obviously, we don’t expect handouts. But our businesses were closed for eight days and now that they are open, our customers are crying that they didn’t work for a week and they can’t spend at our businesses. The only thing they are willing to buy is groceries to feed themselves. We need a relief fund from both the public and private sectors to assist us,” he said.
Ivo Lalone who owns the Malapih Furniture and Electrical Appliances shop in Site C, Khayelitsha, also said township businesses must be compensated.“I had to close my business for the whole week. I paid rent but I could not trade. This is not only about politics, but about human suffering,” he told Vutivi News. Verushka Memdutt of the SA Informal Traders Forum said the Western Cape government must find the money to set up a relief fund, especially for micro-enterprises. “Informal traders are the first economic casualties of disruptions. Most informal traders live from hand to mouth and any disruption of their routine impacts their survival. This has a domino effect on the lives of them, their families and communities” she said.
National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Gilbert Mosena said the government usually ignored struggling small businesses and if they set up a fund to compensate SMMEs for losses incurred last week, that would be a step in the right direction. “During Covid-19, small businesses were deliberately left out of the R500 billion bailouts. Now with the ravaging load-shedding, small businesses are left to close down and our government has no tangible solutions. These are the voters and they are becoming unhappier every day with the growing crime rate and now the interruptions by strikers,” said Mosena.