Mozambik co-founder rips into Ramaphosa as restaurant industry crumbles
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Durban - Entrepreneur and co-founder of Portuguese-themed restaurant chain Mozambik, Brett Michielin, has lashed out at President Cyril Ramaphosa for "annihilating an entire economic sector in record time".
“I don’t pay taxes to listen to Sunday night speeches that points fingers and continues to erode our livelihoods as South Africans. I pay taxes to fund a government that should be serving the people, ensuring the wellness of everyone, especially the destitute,” said Michielin on Monday.
South Africa has surpassed 110 days of its government-imposed coronavirus lockdown – albeit with eased restrictions – in an effort to curb the spread of the virus and lessen the impact on state-owned hospitals that are ill prepared, due to years of mismanagement and corruption in the sector, to care for patients as infections near their peak.
The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by the lockdown, with scores of restaurants having to close their doors and retrench staff.
A renewed ban on the sale of alcohol announced last Sunday night by Ramaphosa – without prior warning – has exacerbated the rapid decline of the industry.
Countrywide protests by restaurant owners and staff are set to take place this week as they oppose the "decimation" of the industry.
The "1 Million Empty Seats on the Streets" campaign will see protesters start their picket on Wednesday. The march has been organised by the Restaurant Association of South Africa.
“The president can watch the protest from the comfort of his armchair,” said Michielin.
He also extended an invite to Ramaphosa to lunch at any of Mozambik's restaurants so that he could "come and see what the lockdown regulations have done to the industry, to entrepreneurs, and to jobs. Do not take a view from an Ivory Tower, Mr. President, Uzibonele! Come and see for yourself!”
Michielin said that many of the regulations and guidelines governing state financial assistance during the lockdown period were more damaging than beneficial.
“We all understand the challenges that Covid-19 has placed on society, business and government. We are all quite situationally aware and always have the wellness of our staff, customers, and fellow South Africans as a priority. The entire industry has gone to significant lengths to ensure this.
"But we also need to provide for our staff and families. The... cost of a string of stop-start decisions and endless rhetoric is jobs, Mr. President. Many, many jobs.”
Prior to the reinstated ban, alcohol could be served at restaurants as a takeaway item when the initial ban was lifted on June 1. Michielin said that this, along with the resumption of the ban and the renewed nighttime curfew announced last week, were "ridiculous".
“Social distancing, extreme sanitisation, responsible citizenry. Protecting the economy. Should this not be the focus of a government that cares? Should the police service not zoom in on true crime as opposed to raiding restaurants, this while someone’s car is probably being stolen next door? We are more than annoyed."
He said when it came to taxpayer-funded financial assistance for businesses, some were more equal than others.
“Mr. President, should thousands of employees feel the scorn of your playbook because the business owner that needs help does not match the profiling criteria employed in the allocation of relief? All jobs matter, all families matter and, I thought, South Africa matters.”
“As the tax base dries up, Mr. President, as businesses continue to fail because they were not equal enough for assistance, as entire value-chains collapse and millions are left hungry. This is not what I had hoped for the Rainbow Nation. Uzibonele, Mr. President!”
Ramaphosa confirmed last week an estimated three million jobs overall had been lost due to the lockdown.
African News Agency/ANA
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