CUSTOMERS buying produce from street vendors in Kraaifontein. Small business owners like informal traders servicing the most vulnerable will be heavily affected by the nationwide lockdown.     Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
CUSTOMERS buying produce from street vendors in Kraaifontein. Small business owners like informal traders servicing the most vulnerable will be heavily affected by the nationwide lockdown. Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Lockdown: Our families will starve, Cape informal traders worry

By Asanda Sokanyile Time of article published Mar 28, 2020

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“THIS nationwide lockdown is going to kill my business.”

These were the words of a concerned small business owner, informal trader and self-employed bricklayer Zukisani Mbanjwa.

“I started losing business about two weeks ago when jobs started being cancelled because of the growing fear around this virus. Now, with a lockdown, I don’t know what I am going to do or how I will survive,” said the father of two.

Even though he lives with his parents, Mbanjwa said living costs had been on the rise and had affected him even before the outbreak.

“I’m not saying life was easy before the virus came to South Africa, but they were better. I had a guaranteed income, even though it was not stable but I knew for certain that each month I would be able to cover my basic needs and be able to save some money for my children’s futures.

“Now, there is nothing coming in and debts will pile up. How will I recover from all the loss?”

On average, Mbanjwa said he made between R11000 and R17000 a month “depending on how good or bad business was in that month”.

He is one of the millions of informal traders in the country and, according to the latest available Quarterly Labour Force Survey, this sector has just under five million workers.

According to Jane Barrett, programme director for the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, the majority of domestic, agricultural, and taxi workers fell under the banner of informal traders.

“Nearly one in every five of all workers who have an employer, are informal in this sense.

“This means that in the current coronavirus crisis, where our jobs are at high risk, we have no social security to fall back on. The rest of us who are in informal employment are self-employed. Our work is already seriously impacted by the crisis,” she said.

Echoing Mbanjwa’s sentiments, Barrett added: “Almost all of us informal workers live day-by-day on our very small incomes. When the bottom falls out of our work, we and our families will starve.”

Thandiwe Xulu, from the South African Self-employed Women’s Association, sells chickens with six other ladies from her area. The mother of six makes between R1200 and R1500 a month which she uses to take care of her family.

“Right now we have 500 chickens and 500 chicks. What are we going to do with all that stock if people are not allowed to come and buy from us? We sell to sellers as well as individuals daily. This is a disaster for us,” she said.

Xulu also said the group of women, mostly elderly, on average collectively made up to R30000 a month.

“From that we buy our stock, our chicks as well as seedlings and pay any other running costs and only then do we draw a salary from the profits.”

Achmat Sallie sold vegetables at Mitchells Plain Town Centre and was an electrician before he was injured on the job.

“When you have a family, you do what you can to provide. My veggie stand has been growing over the last few years.

“I sell good stock and people appreciate that, but now business is really bad because of this virus and I already see that my stock stays longer than usual. I’m sure it will get worse now with the lockdown because people are scared of the army,” he said.

Weekend Argus

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