Coping in a poor economy

THE impending closure of Maritime Motors in Grahamstown at month-end is yet another indication of how much our economy is hurting.

Businesses are struggling, some industries more than others, but most people feel it.

In the private sector, companies continue to downsize staff, salary increases are small, and 13th cheques are a rarity. Getting any kind of bonus is something to be treasured.

The government and parastatals live in another reality, where salary freezes are unheard of and the bosses of Eskom and the SABC continue to receive outlandish bonuses in spite of shocking performance.

Members of parliament each make more than a million rand now, be they active on behalf of their constituents or useless backbenchers, good for nothing but applauding Number One or shouting down the opposition.

The monetary reward bestowed upon parastatal bosses and politicians, their lavish lifestyles, the further abuse of state resources by some government ministers, and even the gaudy pomp and extravagance MPs display at the opening of parliament – like they are red carpet celebrities – is a slap in the face of ordinary South Africans who are working hard to eke out a living.

Unemployment is still high, including in our area, and first preference is a job with the municipality, as it is sheltered employment, free from the consequences of economic downturn. Pay rises are guaranteed, albeit the higher echelons are sometimes more circumspect in the raises they award themselves. Likewise, they have never gone without a year-end bonus, like many of us in the private sector have.

The municipality is seen as a nanny employer – able to dish out jobs at a whim. This is wholly unrealistic. Granted, there have been accusations of corruption in the municipality’s unemployment database – that ANC cadres or friends are favoured over others – but there are simply not enough jobs to go around.

Amid the misery of unemployment and abuse of resources which benefit a few, it is heartening to hear a story like that of Nandipha Chani, an Ekuphumleni woman with a great entrepreneurial spirit.

She saw an opportunity and filled a need by setting up her own informal tuckshop for school pupils at a bus stop across the street from Ikamva Lesizwe Combined School. Her vetkoek stuffed with chicken livers are cheap, filling and extremely popular. Our reporters each tried one and their stomachs were satisfied.

Besides Chani there are the women we often see selling fruit and vegetables on the roadside. These small entrepreneurs need to be supported and commended for trying to make an income for their families.

– Jon Houzet

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