Informal traders in Mariental are finding it hard to make ends meet due to the national Covid-19 lockdown.
“Our businesses used to cater to our everyday needs, such as buying school uniforms, groceries and everything else. At the moment, we just don’t know what to do; we are just waiting to be informed that maybe we will be assisted in some other way because we spent the little money we had left,” said a distraught Aina Mashuna.
Mashuna is one of many street vendors who sell vegetables and other commodities at the town’s complex. She explains that since the lockdown started in March, she and her fellow vendors were asked to vacate the premises where they used to sell their items.
She is concerned that even though they will be allowed to trade again, they do not have any start-up capital as they have already spent their savings.
“We just want to appeal to the government as well as the Mariental Municipality to assist us, informal traders, during this crisis because we are just seated home doing nothing. They can please assist us financially to continue doing our business after the lockdown is over. We are also worried about our children who stay in hostels; we need to pay the taxi drivers who transport us to the business premises,” she added.
Aina said she had registered for the emergency income grant (EIG) but has not received the funds yet. She plans to use the grant to buy groceries.
According to Veronica Untjanga, a tuck shop owner living in the ‘Eie Risiko’ informal settlement, the lockdown has badly affected her sales.
“The stock that I currently have is old stock that I bought last month in March before the lockdown started. At first, people were buying but because of the lockdown, only a few people have been buying the stock. I used to buy cheap stock like onions in Stampriet but now because no one is buying, most of the items have now gone bad and I threw them away. There are simply no customers; we are struggling – we even tried applying for the EIG but we have not received anything yet,” said Untjanga.
The breadwinner of her family, Untjanga, said she has two minor children to take care of since her husband is unemployed. She too requested for the municipality to allow them back at the shopping complex to sell their goods.
Recently, a directive was announced permitting informal traders who sell essential goods to start trading again during the lockdown. However, this comes with stringent regulations which many traders feel will affect their income even more.
These include the fact that the traders will now have to prepare the food at their place of residence and will not be able to prepare food on the streets any longer. Food will also have to be sold in packages and sealed off.
Mariental Municipality CEO Paul Nghiwilepo said consultations have started with the informal traders to inform them about the regulations.
“We are consulting the traders to explain to them about the regulations and the conditions which will allow them to come back to trade in the streets. They raised their issues with us and we will try to address them. There were a few challenges raised because now it will mean they will incur more expenses to buy the packaging materials,” he said.
Nghiwilepo said eligible traders will be allowed to start trading from Monday.