Shisanyama employees grateful to be back at work in lockdown level 2

Pheli Shisanyama in Atteridgeville prepares to open its doors after closing in March due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Pheli Shisanyama in Atteridgeville prepares to open its doors after closing in March due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Image: Shonisani Tshikalange

The Covid-19 lockdown wiped out their income in one go, leaving them without wages for five months. Now staff at a Pretoria shisanyama are preparing to balance hygiene protocols and a night-time curfew as they prepare to reopen under level 2.

Staff were mopping floors and stacking chairs in preparation of their return to trade, while devising a shift roster, when TimesLIVE visited.

“Today we are just busy cleaning. We are preparing to open — we might open on Thursday,” said manager Eric Sibande.

Pheli Shisanyama in Atteridgeville, an entertainment venue with music, drinks and food, will be offering a new platter-style menu to meet the strict new rules of operating. Its customers will have to book at least a day in advance so that the establishment can limit attendance to under 50 at a time.

Sibande said they have to adjust their closing time too. “We will open at 9am and close at 9.30pm, because the curfew starts at 10pm. We used to operate from 9am to 2am,” he said.

It’s going to take a lot of time for people to adjust to the new plans because most of the people, when they come to groove, they arrive around 10pm, so people have to adjust. From 6pm to 9pm, at least, we can have some fun.”

Though happy to be back in business, Sibande fears profits will be much reduced.

“We are not going to make the same money we used to make. It’s a challenge,” he said.

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“We are not sure how people are going to react to the closing hours and changes, because some people might say, 'Why should I go out when at 10pm I am supposed to be inside the house?'

“The thing is that they won’t be spending as much time here like before. So we don’t know how this will affect us. Maybe they will come and maybe they won’t come.”

Sibande is also unsure how people will react when he has to limit the number of patrons.

“The challenge is that Pheli is for people — [usually] people come in numbers, so imagine having people come up in numbers and they want to come in [only to] find that we already have 50 people inside?”

'It was like trying to patch here while you can’t cover the other side'

A barman at the shisanyama, Lethabo Motau, is pleased at the prospect of earning money.

“I am bit relieved that we are opening because of the financial constraints that I have been experiencing during the lockdown,” he said.

The 22-year-old has been sitting at home since the end of March, when the coronavirus restrictions were first imposed on the country.

“I was trying to do some side jobs but it is not the same like when working,” he said.

“Being at home affected me so much in terms of balancing my responsibilities. It was like trying to patch here while you can’t cover the other side. Some of my things I had to delay paying. When I was still getting my salary here, I used to be able to pay all of my things.”

Motau said he is happy to be back at work but is nervous about the risk of infection, and whether he can receive his usual wage.

“Mentally I am prepared, but I feel like I need to be extra cautious. Maybe there are some things we can talk to the manager about, so that they can implement. I am going to take more precautions and be more careful with my health.

“Less hours means less revenue, so this means less income. But hopefully everything will go well.”

Another staff member, who asked not to be named, was thrilled to be back to work.

“I am very happy because I had to get a side job [during the hard lockdown], which required me to take a taxi. Now I am happy that I am back here. I don’t need to take a taxi, I just walk here,” she said.

“We were struggling during lockdown.”


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