'Draconian action' leaving already struggling Cape businesses crying for help
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Cape Town - The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has endorsed the appeal by the Western Cape government to extend financial help to those struggling to avoid the collapse of their businesses.
Chamber president Janine Myburgh said as tragic as it was to read about the daily death toll of the Covid-19 virus, another horror risked being forgotten – the collateral deaths wrought by the pandemic and the associated measures taken to control its spread and the collapse of thousands of small, medium and micro-enterprises.
Myburgh said the province, a world tourism destination, had been particularly hard hit by the blanket closure of liquor outlets, the ban on alcohol sales and the “mindless closure of beaches – the one place where social distancing occurs naturally and could be controlled”.
She said the collateral damage of those actions had been devastating to hundreds of businesses, from restaurants, licensed bars and saloons to boutique wine farms and bed-andbreakfast establishments throughout the region and the country.
“This draconian action taken for reasons bordering on panic rather than careful thought is having long-term consequences that will be felt years after the pandemic ends – as it will,” she said.
The chairperson of the economic opportunities and tourism standing committee in the Western Cape legislature, Deidré Baartman, said they were concerned that businesses in the province were struggling to pay employees and to keep their doors open under the continued level 3 lockdown restrictions.
Baartman said the ban on alcohol was likely to cost the Western Cape economy R2 billion and the beach ban to cost the hospitality and tourism industry R120million a month.
The operations manager of the Confederation of Employers in SA (Cofesa), TJ van der Merwe, has also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to save the tourism, restaurant and catering industry.
Baartman said the province faced an untenable business environment, particularly for those in the tourism and hospitality sector, which have been hit hard again.
“The Western Cape has passed the peak of its second wave of Covid-19 infections, and while residents cannot relax their behaviour in helping to flatten the curve, the national government has the power to implement differentiated lockdown regulations which would open the economy and give businesses a much-needed lifeline,” said Baartman.
She said by readjusting the curfew hours and alcohol ban, while also lifting the beach ban, the national government would help to protect the livelihoods of thousands of people.
The ANC’s provincial spokesperson on finance and economic opportunities, Nomi Nkondlo, said increasing trading hours should be balanced against the impact this would have on the attempt to restrict movement during certain hours.
Nkondlo said firm proposals should be developed for consideration by the National Coronavirus Command Council.
Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said R38 268 000 had been distributed to 252 small businesses across the Western Cape through the Covid-19 business relief fund, saving at least 2000 jobs during the pandemic.
“We know that times have been tough for businesses… and that is why, from the start, we have been working hard to support businesses, especially small businesses, to open safely and responsibly, so we can save jobs and the economy,” said Maynier.