Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Small businesses in the rural and coastal areas have been crippled by the devastating torrential rain storm that battered the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast recently.

Businesses in the region said yesterday that small tourist establishments, especially bed and breakfasts, appeared to be hardest hit.

"It has been extremely devastating for our start-up entities that have been most vulnerable because they are not covered by insurance," said one owner.

These are entrepreneurial businesses or those started by people going into business for the first time. Most suffered extensive damage during the storm when buildings collapsed and roads and bridges were washed away.

Diane van Dyk, executive member of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in some rural areas remain inaccessible by road.

"We must also understand that staff from other businesses operating in the region live in these areas and still cannot get to work. Prior to the holidays pupils were unable to attend school to write their exams."

Van Dyk said while local government was engaged in the rebuilding of damaged infrastructure and providing relief aid to the homeless, businesses in the area were rallying together to support each other.

"This is a tightly-knit community and they are supporting each other. The community and NGO sector must also be commended for playing its part in supporting the victims."

Meanwhile, some big establishments in the area have reported that their businesses also faced closure because insurance companies would not pay out for the full extent of the damage.

But, business expert Bonke Dumisa said it was the responsibility of both big and small businesses to make sure that their operations had adequate insurance cover and financial reserves they could dip into in times of emergencies .

"Businesses that can afford insurance for flood cover and natural disasters must make sure that they receive adequate cover. Insurance companies will always look at ways of getting out of things and if there are serious transgressions customers can report the matter to the short-term insurance ombudsman," he said.

"It is also important for businesses in the area to work together to ensure that they send out a positive message that they are back on their feet."