Those who looked forward to going back to work on Friday 1 May – the date set for the end of the COVID-19 lockdown extension – were sorely disappointed, especially when the new ‘Level 4′ regulations seem to offer very little extra freedom except perhaps exercise. Worse yet, for most there was little to no opportunity to start earning again.
One only has to look at exchanges on social media, or listen to the hurried supermarket aisle conversations between stressed-out business owners to be overwhelmed by the sense of sheer frustration they are dealing with.
There is no right answer. On one side of the equation, most understand the necessity of keeping everyone at home for as long as possible – after all, we are all playing our part in a national effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve. But on the other side is an economic reality that grows more dreadful with each locked down day. Dreams collapsing, small businesses facing closure, even more unemployment than before, and no real relief in sight.
Whilst the greater Sedgefield community has diligently rolled up its sleeves to provide sustenance to those in need during lockdown, it seems that in the months ahead there will be an equally import mission – that of supporting – and indeed saving – local business.
Because of Sedgefield’s prime positioning in the Garden Route, residents have up until now been more spoiled for choice than they would be in similar sized towns elsewhere in South Africa. Where else in the world would one find such a plethora of restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, and so many other owner-run businesses, in a CBD that takes five minutes to walk from end to end?
Add to this mix our three very successful Saturday markets, which in pre-covid times brought visitors (and their wallets) from far and wide.
But the market stall holders now have to stay at home, as do most of the small business owners, and, of course, their staff.
With no respite in sight after more than a month of no income, any savings a small business may have had will have long been depleted, especially in Sedgefield where the economy has always been just beyond hand-to-mouth. People do not open a business in this town to make a fortune. They open so that they may live here.
We hope and pray that all our local businesses will be able to pull themselves out of the dark covid pit and start up again once they are allowed to trade, but this certainly isn’t a given.
What is a given, is that those who do manage to open are going to need all the support that local residents can give.
Never before has supporting local been so important. Every Rand will count. Every ring of the till will contribute towards local employment, local school fees, even putting bread on local tables. Small business has long been the pumping heart of the village economy, giving the residents a reason to stay and the tourists a reason to return again and again. Isn’t it worth our best efforts to keep it going?