Association of Wedding Professionals prepares for court showdown with govt over lockdown regulations
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Durban - The Association of Wedding Professionals of South Africa is preparing to fight the government in court for a phased reopening of the sector which it says has been decimated during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Association founder Jurie Smit estimated that the industry contributes more than R20 billion to the local economy, but because it is not formally recognised as a sector it is unclear how many jobs it supports.
Smit said the industry, which includes professionals ranging from hair stylists, beauty therapists, clothing manufacturers, jewellers, make-up artists and photographers to DJs, catering venues and equipment hire firms, has been “devastated” by the lockdown regulations.
Smit said the sector wanted to put health and safety first, which was why it would not argue in court for a total reopening.
“We are looking at a phased reopening of this industry with proper records in place and tracing, mainly using the same regulations which are already in place for restaurants and churches,” he said.
Smit said he was aware that people were continuing to have weddings at home and at venues in a “totally irresponsible way” so it made sense to open the sector but with regulations in place.
“KZN said they won’t allow weddings to take place but they are allowing funerals to take place. How can you allow church gatherings on Sundays but you don’t want to allow a wedding to happen at a church, and if you look at the regulations pertaining to a restaurant where they will ensure there is social distancing what’s the difference in hosting a wedding?”
Smit said the association was busy with research and compiling documents to prepare to take the matter to court.
“Even though we are going to be approaching the court to reopen, our main concern remains safety, accountability, transparency and traceability. What we are saying is give us our fair chance to also operate within the safety standards to ensure we can maintain and sustain our industry,” Smit said.
Lene van Leeuwen, co-founder of venue hire and decor firm Imperfect Perfection said her business had no income since the start of lockdown in March.
Van Leeuwen said her 15 staff ,who had 84 dependants, had been living in rooms at her wedding venue since the start of lockdown.
“They have not left our venue in the 104 days since we started lockdown. They couldn’t cross borders to get home and then in the window period when we gave them the opportunity to go home they said they don’t want to go because they won’t have electricity at home,” she said.
She said her firm had continued to pay staff despite not having any income but its financial reserves had now run dry.
“Our power got cut two weeks ago because we had to decide whether we were going to pay our staff or our electricity bill. Our staff have dependants,” she said.
She said photographers who had worked with the firm for 15 years had liquidated. “It’s an absolutely devastating thing that is happening,” she said.
Wayne Hulett, owner of Collisheen Estate, which employs 26 staff, said his business had lost more than R6.8million during the lockdown. He said staff had been getting the UIF TERS payment but this had come to an end in June.
He said he would be applying for a bank loan to try keep the business afloat. However, he said government’s funding for Covid-19 bank loans came with the same stringent application and repayment criteria as ordinary loans and he was not hopeful that he would be assisted as a white-owned business. He has also turned to a creative concept to help couples marry and was considering opening a restaurant service.
“We started doing drive-in weddings, which is a wedding ceremony in the garden under a gazebo. Cars can park in a circle and witness their family members getting married. We serve a takeaway picnic basket to the car. It is very minimal with only one staff member serving food,” he said.
“We have had three drive-in weddings in July and the next one is only in September,” he said.