Self-employed struggle to survive

Nodumo Makaza

While the South African economy staggers under the country’s prolonged Covid-19 lockdown, self-employed people are feeling the pinch of income loss.

  For the self-employed who do not qualify for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) or other financial relief schemes offered to small businesses the financial challenges are hard. 

  A Yeoville  based tailor, John Ngalamule said the prospect of surviving another month without income is likely to push him to poverty, as his income  of R10 000 per month has been halted by the lockdown.

  “The reality of the lockdown, slapped me in the face, lockdown put a stop to my work, I had my savings but I doubt it’s enough to pull me through the end of lockdown which is currently unknown,” he said.

  Ngalamule says the ban on weddings and church services put a strain on his income as orders had to be cancelled as soon as lockdown kicked in.

“I now rely on mask sales, but they do not make enough money as I sell them for R20 each, and the money I get from the sales cannot cover my rentals. More than four weddings had to be cancelled for which I had been assigned to make the bridal dresses and guest outfits,” he said.

  Ngalamule hopes that with the opening of schools he will get orders for Matric dance outfits.

  Felicity Mlambo a hairdresser at a salon in the Johannesburg CBD is part of a growing number of people frustrated by the inability to earn a living.

  “My situation is growing more desperate by the day. I am self-employed and my income solely depends on the reopening of the hair salons. If that does not happen anytime soon I might find myself on the streets,” she said.

  She says it’s been challenging for her to buy baby essentials using the money she gets from house calls.

  “It’s not safe for me to go out and do people’s hair with a baby, but I’m left with no choice as it  is the only way I  can get to put food on the table. The money I get from house calls is not enough, I used to make R3500-R5000 a month at the salon but now I can hardly make R500 in a fortnight,” she said.
  According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) the self-employed, casual and gig workers  are likely to be disproportionately hit by the virus as they do not have access to paid or sick leave mechanisms, and are less protected by conventional social protection mechanisms and other forms of income smoothing.

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