Residents of Port St Johns plead with government to help boost local economy

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Residents of Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape are calling for government assistance to boost the local economy. They want the government to assist in local economic development by making use of the natural resources in the small coastal town.

Locals believe the various fruit trees that grow in the wild and their gardens could help to alleviate poverty in the area.

Port St Johns is situated along the Indian Ocean. The warm weather in the area promotes the growth of sub-tropical fruit. Various fruits like avocado, guavas, bananas and litchis grow naturally in the forests that surround this small town.

Locals believe that government intervention will help them maintain their livelihoods while also boosting the local economy.

“The only way we can get help is through the formation of co-operatives as people who grow fruit so that we can assist each other. That way people will know where and how to get hold of us. So that is how we can be developed because at the end of the day we don’t have jobs. We are suffering. We are dependent on this fruit,” says resident Makhosini Mfiseni.

While others are blessed with this natural resource in their gardens, some buy from local farmers and sell. The R61 road is always busy with street vendors looking to cash in.

“I have no other income except for the money I make here. When I run out of stock, I go back to struggling because I have nothing else to sell,” says street vendor, Thozama Moyikwa.

“I have two grandchildren and I recently bought them tracksuits at R300 for each child. I used the money I made here. My children’s grocery, because they want expensive stuff like cornflakes, I have to buy them because I don’t want them to grow the way I was raised,” explains Resident Poziswa Jebe.

Many families who are struggling to make ends meet sell the fruits to tourists and locals.

“At least there’s a change because I use the money I get here to buy food while waiting for my social grant money. I spend time selling the fruit here, and then go to the shops to buy a few things so that we can eat,” adds another resident Busiwe Mfiseni.

“I’m a learner at a local school. I’m in grade 10. But since I’m not writing exams today I decided to come and sell. But I will be at school tomorrow because I will be writing exams. So I’m trying to make money so I can go to school tomorrow,” says Nolubabalo Nondabula, a resident.

The local government has plans in place to ensure that the informal business is formalised.

Mayor of Port St Johns municipality Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo says, “The municipality through the local economic development department is working with them in making sure that they are part of the co-operatives that will assist them in claiming the space for example in the local development that we are talking about because we are saying we need to develop the nodes of Port St John’s but in those nodes, we expect to have local people having small shops in those malls that will be done in the outskirts of the town.”

With the high rate of unemployment in the country, the formalisation of the fruit business in the area could assist to alleviate poverty and create job opportunities. Plans are in the pipeline to build a harbour in the tourist-attraction town which might also assist the locals in selling their products.