Marabastad informal trader John Pasha talks about how his business has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)
Marabastad informal trader John Pasha talks about how his business has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

Informal traders hit badly by Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns

By James Mahlokwane Time of article published Nov 25, 2021

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Pretoria - The year is almost gone and so is the hope for financial recovery among informal traders, who have been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown.

Informal traders in Marabastad, Pretoria, said it was too late for them to save enough money for the festive season and send their children back to school in January.

While some of them have stokvels to help them make additional income, this year targets were not met.

Most of them said they normally closed their businesses every December at some point to go and rest with their families, but this year has been so tough that they would need to work throughout the festive season.

These informal traders, who sell fruit, vegetables, accessories, fast food, clothes and shoes, said at some point policing authorities confiscated their stock when the lockdown was at its harshest.

However, between losing stock and not finding stock, as well as attempting to recover, it all proved to be more difficult than they expected.

In fact, they said the only bullet they dodged was the July civil unrest.

James Mbedzi, of Winterveld, said they were warned of possible looting in advance by the City of Tshwane.

He said: "The lockdown is the one that affected us and nearly killed our business. After 18 years of trading fruit here, these last two years proved to be the most difficult for us.

“This year again we kept going back into tighter lockdown regulations. Regulations meant people had less money to spend because they made less money.

“Right now, as we’re approaching the festive season, our stokvels are not doing well. We really do not have money. Normally each member must save a minimum of R200 a month. A member would eventually save around R4 000 by the end of the year and that money would go a long way.”

John Phasha, of Sunnyside, has been trading in Marabastad since 2003 and his business has grown, enabling him to employ three women and two young men.

He started the business at age 17, selling spathlo, and has now branched out to selling food.

“To be honest, if I said this was a fruitful year, I would be lying. Running this business has never been tougher. We did not make real money at all.

“There were times when we were not working and I was sending money to my staff from my own savings, just so that they too could eat and feed their families.

“I think the most painful thing was when my three children were stopped from going to school, because I could not afford to pay the private school fees. That was painful and it made me realise that this line of work is not just for anybody. It gets really tough here,” said Phasha.

Jossie Thoka said President Cyril Ramaphosa promised that informal traders would receive some relief as they were also small businesses, but that never happened.

“I think what stresses me the most is that I genuinely did not make money this year. I normally close around December 18, but this year I will be here until January. I do not have a choice but to be creative.

“Instead of vegetables, this festive season I will be selling toys and other things that are in demand, like fireworks, he said.

City of Tshwane chief of staff Jordan Griffiths said they wavered license fees for informal traders to help those hit by the pandemic.

“We also set up a support service facility to help facilitate licences registration.”

Pretoria News

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