'It is stressful because bills must be paid': future unclear for small businesses as Covid-19 cases rise

Johannesburg street vendor Jacob Ndoro hopes the coronavirus epidemic will end soon, otherwise his family might go hungry.
Johannesburg street vendor Jacob Ndoro hopes the coronavirus epidemic will end soon, otherwise his family might go hungry.
Image: Nonkululeko Njilo

With more than 100 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA on Wednesday, many people have taken a decision to work from home indefinitely — leaving the future for small businesses bleak.

Jacob Ndoro, a Johannesburg street vendor, hopes the pandemic can be contained soon or else his family could go hungry.

Ndoro, who is based in Parktown, relies on office workers to visit his mini tuck shop to buy fruit, cigarettes and snacks.

With the outbreak, he has seen a decrease in  customers, which affects his total earnings.

“I am running at a loss now because I had stocked up, but since Monday people coming in are fewer,” he said. This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa's declaration of special measures to combat the spread of coronavirus on Sunday night.

Ndoro said if more people decided to work from home, he would be forced to close down.

Asked what he planned to do, he responded: “For now, I don’t have any plan, this came as a surprise.”

With more than three people financially dependent on him, Ndoro said, he could be forced to approach his bank and withdraw his savings. After this, he would have no savings and no means to make a living.   

David Sibanyoni, a scholar transport driver based in Pretoria, could find himself in the same predicament. This as the government ordered the closure of schools across the country for four weeks, as part of the drastic measures to contain the virus.

Sibanyoni fears he won't have enough money to pay his vehicle instalment and put food on the table, as pupils will be away for a month and possibly more.

“Parents are different, some have told me that they won’t be able to pay me, some are quiet and it is stressful because I must pay bills ... ”   

Like Ndoro, Sibanyoni is uncertain about his next move.

“I don’t know how long this thing will go on for, but I have to start thinking ... ” he added.  

If push came to shove, Sibanyoni said, he might have to sell his vehicle and buy another he could use as in an e-hailing service.

A creche co-owner in Soweto who asked not to be named said she was uncertain if she would lose any income because of a contract signed with parents.  

“This thing is a crisis for everyone but that does not mean parents must not pay their dues. With us they signed a 12-month contract, meaning they have to pay no matter what,” she said.  

She said some parents had expressed concern at the fairness of the contract, but nothing could be done.  

“We all did not plan for this but our teachers must get paid like everybody else, and electricity and water also must be paid,” she added.

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