‘I fear for my em­ploy­ees’

CityPress - - News - NOSIPIWO MANONA news@city­press.co.za

Tav­ern owner Tho­bile Groot­boom is wor­ried sick about what will hap­pen to his em­ploy­ees should he be forced to let them go when South Africa’s “junk” sta­tus be­gins to bite in a few months.

Groot­boom lives with his wife, Vuyelwa – a pro­fes­sional nurse in one of the lo­cal hos­pi­tals in Port El­iz­a­beth – and they have a child study­ing at the Nel­son Man­dela Met­ro­pol­i­tan Uni­ver­sity.

He is also wor­ried about not be­ing able to af­ford the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of ex­tended fam­ily, of­ten re­ferred to as a black tax.

“We both have ex­tended fam­ily. Both fam­i­lies will go through a dif­fi­cult time,” he said.

He is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned that cus­tomer num­bers will dwin­dle and that those com­ing in will spend less on bev­er­ages and food. Like most busi­nesses, tav­erns are af­fected when the econ­omy is not thriv­ing.

“I know that there have been talks of a pos­si­ble down­grade, but I was hop­ing it wouldn’t be­come a re­al­ity,” he said.

“I cur­rently em­ploy five peo­ple who come in on week­ends when it is mostly busy. What’s go­ing to hap­pen to them?” he asked.

He said it would be un­for­tu­nate if he were forced to make the dif­fi­cult choice of re­duc­ing his staff.

He has run his busi­ness in KwaZakhele town­ship for years and he has seen tough times be­fore.

Con­se­quently, the thought of not be­ing able to af­ford keep­ing all of them em­ployed troubles him.

“My em­ploy­ees all have fam­i­lies; the lit­tle they earn from me makes a big dif­fer­ence in their homes and fam­i­lies. Chances are that the ones I let go won’t be able to se­cure jobs in the future, or maybe never at all,” he said.

“It came as a shock when [the down­grade] was an­nounced ear­lier in the week; I never ex­pected that it would come so soon,” said Groot­boom.

Vuyelwa said she had no doubt that food prices would be es­ca­lat­ing and there was lit­tle peo­ple could do be­cause “ev­ery­body needs food in their homes”.

She said they would now have to re­struc­ture their gro­cery list to ac­com­mo­date the fact that South Africa’s cur­rency would lose more value, which would in­crease the cost of im­ports.

“On av­er­age, we spend around R4 000 on food in our home, but with the down­grade, we will now have to re­duce the items we buy. This will force us to tighten the belt around our house­hold ex­pen­di­ture,” she said, cit­ing prod­ucts such as cof­fee, yo­gurt, ice cream and meat.

She said the fam­ily would also have to make do with­out lux­u­ries such as fam­ily hol­i­days and spend­ing on Christ­mas presents.

Groot­boom said his busi­ness would have to change its op­er­a­tions, be­cause he sus­pected their in­vest­ments and sav­ings would now of­fer fewer ben­e­fits.

“We now have to watch ev­ery cent we spend and stokvels should be re­viewed so that we don’t get caught up in a cash-flow glitch,” said Groot­boom.

Groot­boom ad­mit­ted that his fam­ily did not have a “hid­den purse”, mean­ing huge in­vest­ments set aside for “un­for­tu­nate in­stances”.

He and his wife are brac­ing them­selves for tough times.

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