OFM news reports that the Department of Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Destea) says it remains to be seen whether Free State factories in these two areas will be able to reopen once the lockdown is lifted. While this is a general concern across the country, it is of even greater concern in the Free State which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Botshabelo and Qwaqwa are home to two of the sixteen industrial parks countrywide that have undergone revitalisation in recent years to stimulate economic growth.
The township, located over 60km outside Bloemfontein, is also home to the Naledi Jewellery line owned by fashion accessory company, Westcor.
In 2019, OFM News reported the Botshabelo-based factory at that stage employed around 50 people permanently and between 100 and 200 on seasonal contracts during peak times. This factory is amongst those that cannot operate during the lockdown.
Destea MEC Makalo Mohale is concerned businesses that contribute to the township economy, such as chesanyamas and car washes are also negatively impacted during the lockdown.
In her budget speech in early March, Free State Finance MEC, Gadija Brown, revealed the province’s economy has struggled to recover from the 2009 recession, growing by an average of 1.5 percent since. Post the 2009 global economic crisis, the provincial economy only managed to exceed the 2 percent growth rate in 2010 and 2012, a telltale sign of what is to come once the coronavirus pandemic is under control.
Assistance for small businesses
The Small Business Institute in South Africa has compiled a page of entities that can assist small medium and micro-sized enterprises to survive the lockdown and beyond. Here is their page: https://www.smallbusinessinstitute.co.za/covid-19-for-smes/