IN PICTURES | Limping restaurants fight for a seat at the table
The industry has clashed with government for several weeks. On Wednesday, it took to the streets
The restaurant industry took to the streets on Wednesday to compel the government to allow alcohol sales for licensed sit-down restaurants.
The industry also wants the government to push the curfew back from 9pm to 10pm and to resolve delays in UIF and TERS payouts.
For several weeks, the industry has been at loggerheads with government, particularly over the banning of alcohol, which forms a crucial part of its revenue.
Grace Harding, spokesperson for The Restaurant Collective, said it was clear its members were tired of the ban and how it has affected their livelihoods.
“People are fed up and feel they have to do something. Things are going badly because people are not yet excited to go out. Unemployment means a lot of the population cannot afford restaurants. There is no support to help the industry. The sit-down restaurants are worst affected. A lot of what’s going on is no one’s fault,” Harding said.
On Wednesday, members of the industry, particularly in Cape Town, convened under the social movement #JobsSavesLives.
Harding said in the next 12 months, most businesses would not make any profit.
“At least 70% have had to retrench employees to save costs, and 40% have not received any form of government loan or support. Sit-down restaurants are limping since opening on June 29. Most are trading below 50% of usual turnover. .
“Without immediate action, these losses are likely to be permanent,” Harding said.
Mandla Fakude, a manager at Basement Shisanyama in Atteridgeville, said he supported the peaceful protest.
“Many of our employees are sitting at home, and we have to assist them every month. When it is like this it is difficult because we must pay rent, but we are not making much. The alcohol business has been closed; only the butchery is operating. Business is down,” he said.
The 49-year-old said about 18 full-time employees were sitting at home.
“Most of them come asking for help at the end of the month. Some are even struggling to pay their rent,” Fakude said.
Fakude said he applied for relief from UIF, but it was a long process that didn’t yield any success.
“It’s difficult because there are many people who are in this industry of alcohol, and many of us depend on this business to support our families. It’s a lot of people struggling because of this.”
He said if the ban on alcohol were not lifted soon, the business wouldn’t survive.
“Many families will suffer as we are suffering now, and it will be worse than this,” he said.
Mozambik restaurant co-founder Brett Michielin said he hoped that President Cyril Ramaphosa was watching and taking note of the protests.
“What I want to see is some real action. Come and see what the lockdown regulations have done to the industry, to entrepreneurs, and to jobs. Do not take a view from an ivory tower, Mr President. Uzibonele [‘see for yourself’],” he said.
Michielin said many of the regulations and guidelines governing financial assistance during this period, from government, caused more damage than good.
“We all understand the challenges that Covid-19 has placed on society, business and government. We are all quite situationally aware and always have the wellness of our staff, customers and fellow South Africans as a priority. The entire industry has gone to significant lengths to ensure this. But we also need to provide for our staff and families.
“I don’t pay taxes to listen to Sunday night speeches that point fingers and continue to erode our livelihoods as South Africans. I pay taxes to fund a government that should be serving the people and ensuring the wellness of everyone, especially the destitute,” added Michielin.
Hundreds of restaurant staff, from owners to kitchen workers, took to the streets of Cape Town as part of a nationwide protest against SA’s Covid-19 curfew and alcohol restrictions.