Covid-19: Businesses feeling the pinch

BY MARX ITAMALO

NORTHERN-BASED businesses are feeling the pinch of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many establishments making heavy losses in terms of income, threatening the jobs of employees.
Some business people cannot source their stock due to the lockdown imposed on the country following the surge in Covid-19 related infections and deaths in recent days.
Confidente spoke to several business owners who expressed dismay at the pandemic and how it has affected their business operations and subsequently their income. They are also calling upon government to assist businesses which were brought to their knees by the pandemic.
Joel Ndemwiimba owns Tupanduleni Trading cc, comprising of a mini-market, guesthouse, bottle store and a brickmaking business. Before the coronavirus hit Namibia, he made a substantial monthly profit from where he would pay salaries of his nine employees, deduct operational costs and still take some savings to the bank.
“Now even salaries are hard to pay. There is no business. There is no money,” the Omuthiya based businessman told this publication this week.
He stressed that since he has been with his employees for a long time, he opted not to send any of them home but to rather trim their salaries. “We discussed it we all agree that a few cents are better than nothing at all,” he pointed out.
According to him, his guesthouse now only sees about five clients per week, in sharp contrast to about 50 visitors a week in the past. According to him, people no longer trust sleeping in guesthouses for fear of contracting the deadly virus.
In addition, he says, the closure of bars and shebeens at 18h00 has affected his business operations. According to him, his bar makes less than N$300 daily.
“Patrons used to come drink after work. When somebody arrives at home it is already 18h00 and that’s the time we are required to close. And we are not allowed to sell during weekends when people do not go to work. It’s very difficult for us. People don’t buy bricks anymore because they are using money to bury their loved ones who have succumbed to the virus,” he noted.

NOT ALONE

He is not alone. Daniel Amakali owns a butchery business at Onethindi location in Oniipa town. He specialises in selling cattle, goats and pigs’ heads, hooves and trotters he procures from slaughterhouses in Grootfontein and Gobabis.
Most of his customers are kapana vendors and village dwellers who come to town mostly on Fridays to buy meat. But since the regional lockdown that came into effect last week, Amakali will not be able to travel outside Oshikoto to source his stock.
“The future looks bleak my friend. I will not be able sell anything for the next three weeks. But let’s hope the infection rate and deaths slow down so that the country opens again,” he stated.
Another sector hard hit by the Covid is the transport sector. Bus operators bemoan the fact that they are not allowed to carry enough passengers during the pandemic, which they say is to their detriment.
“If you check and think well, we ought to be described as crucial partners during this time because transport people are going to different places for very important engagements but it appears the government does not value us.
“Imagine a bus with a capacity to carry 29 people but you are only allowed to carry 15 people. That money is for fuel only but you are not making any profit. Even the driver’s salary cannot come from that amount,” seethes Efraim Uugwanga, owner of Scorpion Liner.
His three buses transport passengers between Windhoek, Ondangwa, Oshakati and Oshikango. He articulated that one trip could give him N$8 000 in the past of which a substantial amount would cover fuel costs and still could make a profit, but now the little he makes is gobbled up by fuel only.
“Government must make a plan to assist us. But not the N$750 they gave people last year. It was peanuts,” he stated pointing out to the N$750 emergency government dished out to selected people at the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic in April last year.