SONA 2021: Western Cape businesses await President’s measures to rebuild economy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Business and labour in the Western Cape are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce decisive, economy-rebuilding measures during his State of the Nation Address.

The tourism and agriculture sectors have been bleeding jobs since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing various businesses to their knees.

Calls have been made for renewed investment in infrastructure and financial support to avert further job losses.

Agriculture is one of the main pillars of the Western Cape economy, providing jobs to about 300 000 in wine, stock, and crop farming. But the lockdown regulations have hit hard with millions of jobs lost.

More and more families are falling into destitution and poverty, looking to access unemployment benefits or social relief to get by.

Many say this in itself is a challenge. “Once you do your application to get UIF, you don’t qualify for TERs money and you don’t qualify for the R350.”

Another resident says;” It’s very hard because I can’t get even that TERs thing, because I already applied for my unemployment so I can’t even receive that R350, so for me it’s very hard.”

Extension of grant relief

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is calling for the extension of COVID-19 social grant relief saying it is crucial in averting deepening desperation.

Cosatu provincial secretary, Malvern du Bruyn, says government must reassess austerity measures and budget cuts that affect workers.

“We need serious interventions particularly the agricultural sector, manufacturing sector, also the tourism sector, those are the three sectors that have been hit the most in terms of job losses and also to ensure that workers that go to work are safe. So, we think the government can do more.”

Wine industry

The wine industry nearly buckled under the pressure of the bans on alcohol sales. The industry says it was saved from near collapse by the 7% growth in exports.

Chief Executive Officer of Agri Western Cape, Jannie Strydom says there is a misconception that agriculture has been spared hardship.

“There is a severe strain on the cash flow of farmers because of the transportation regulations and so forth, so it was under difficult circumstances and also had the ban on the sale of alcohol which caused enormous cash flow constraints n the wine industry and the whole value chain.”

The wine industry has been negatively affected by the alcohol ban during the lockdown:

Tourism industry

Tourism, meanwhile, is another major economic driver contributing billions to the provincial economy. Restrictions on the sale of alcohol, beach and travel bans, and limits on gatherings have been crippling.

WESGRO CEO, Tim Harris says roleplayers should adapt to the changing tourism landscape.

“We think Cape Town and the Western Cape can become a destination for remote work so traveller might come for a few weeks for a holiday, might stay and work from here and spend much longer in the destination, but in order to make that happen we are calling on the president to announce a new remote work visa for the country, many countries around the world are doing this.”

Harris says South Africa has suffered reputational damage after the discovery of the new variant in the country. He says a strong political statement should be made by the president to dispel the negativity around it, by speaking to the country’s scientific excellence in its testing and mapping.

The tourism industry suffered losses due to the pandemic: