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Self-employed youths struggle to stay afloat


Entrepreneurs have indicated that the lack of income has crippled their businesses.

SELF-employed youth in Upington are not only feeling the pinch of restricted movement but are struggling to make ends meet during the lockdown period.

Entrepreneurs have indicated that the lack of income has crippled their businesses.

Romeon Malo, 34, who is the owner of an after-school tutoring facility, an administration business and pupil transport business, said that the lockdown has already left him with huge holes in his pockets.

“I am a graduate who has a diploma in Business Studies. I started my tutoring and administration businesses last year and have been operating as a pupil transporter for about two months,” said Malo on Wednesday.

“I have 20 pupils, from Grade 3 to Grade 7, who I tutor daily. I also have two graduates who I employed at the tutor centre. We cover all school subjects and also assist the pupils with their school projects. We had to close during the lockdown as people were not allowed to leave their houses. We have been hiring a hall from a local church where we host our classes. Due to the lockdown we had to stop operating as people are not allowed to gather in large groups or halls. I do however have to continue paying for the rent to the church, even though we have not been using the facility.”

Malo added that he also had to cover the expenses of his other businesses.

“I have a facility which I erected in someone’s backyard for my administration business. I also had to close that business due to the lockdown. However, I am still liable for the electricity costs and internet services there.”

Malo said he also had to take the needs of his employees into account.

“The parents pay us a monthly fee for the tutoring classes. I understand that in the current situation one cannot expect parents to pay an hourly fee. We then agreed to charge them monthly but with schools being closed and the lockdown possibly being extended there is no indication of where I will find the funds to cover my costs. I not only have to think of the businesses but also of the people who are looking to me as a source of income.”

Malo said that he understood the importance of the lockdown but pointed out that it had placed small businesses between a rock and a hard place.

“We are still an upcoming business and do not have floating revenue that we can use to pay our expenses while we are in lockdown. I had to use my expertise to start my businesses, as the unemployment rate is so high. The lockdown is putting me back where I started and I am not certain if I will be able to survive should the lockdown be extended.”

The owner of a local early childhood centre (ECD) shared the same sentiments.

“I have six people, of whom four are married, working for me. Some of the parents did not pay their fees for March and there are already parents who indicated that they will not pay for April. I still have to pay the salaries of my staff and the rental of the facility, yet we are not getting all our outstanding money,” she said.

She pointed out that the lockdown had a ripple effect and affected everyone.

“I have 30 children at the ECD centre and 15 children who attend the aftercare facility. The parents of these children are not wealthy. We have about 10 children whose parents are foreign nationals and who are dependent on daily piece-jobs. We understand that those parents are currently also sitting with no income due to the lockdown as they cannot go around searching for jobs or selling items on the street. As much as one needs payment from the parents, the reality is just as dark for some parents.”

She said that all she could do now was hope that her business would recover after the lockdown.

“I am not certain whether all the children will return to the centre after this as many parents are struggling. We have had many children dropping out in the past but hopefully things will return to normal soon after the lockdown.”

The lack of income and poverty, which is a daily reality for some residents, was evident in Soetdoring Street, where residents looked on helplessly after a scavenger was arrested by the police, who were conducting patrols in the street.

The man, dressed in rags, was going through the rubbish bags that had been put out for collection.

The police van stopped a few steps from the man, who was shocked to see the vehicle stop next to him.

The officers inside the vehicle stepped out of the vehicle and told the man that he was not supposed to roam the streets and then loaded him into the back of the van.

One resident said the lockdown was exposing all the social ills in the country.

“The luxury of not having to go through someone’s rubbish is one of the things we take for granted. This man had no other choice but to go out and search through other people’s rubbish rubbish to find food or scavenge an income. It is heartbreaking that someone who already has nothing now has to sit behind bars and be forced to pay a fine to be released while his only income was rubbish,” the resident sighed.

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