SELEBI-PHIKWE: Government efforts to cut liquor trading hours and ban braai stands at butcheries could have far-reaching ramifications and prove counter-productive as hundreds find themselves jobless overnight.
The country's sole brewer of clear beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), has announced that 92 workers will be retrenched at the end of March.
The government revised liquor-trading hours and imposed a 30-percent levy on alcohol in November last year. The punitive surcharge on consumers of alcohol is threatening the viability of KBL, which faces tough competition from international alcohol brands.
Butcheries are also reeling from a ban on the use of braai stands and barbecues on their premises, which has affected their sales. Most butcheries in this mining town have retrenched their employees while some are faced with closure.
Indigenous retailers complain that the new law favours their foreign counterparts, particularly those of Asian origin.
"How do you explain the existence of an Indian-run wholesale in residential areas? Our businesses are suffering while Asian business owners are allowed to sell items by the unit at wholesales," says butchery owner, Nzwaligwa Nzwaligwa.
Nzwaligwa says most general dealers face stiff competition from wholesalers which are located in residential areas and that Asian-owned restaurants have suddenly sprung up following the ban on braaiing.
He adds that the measures hostile to indigenous enterprises are being enforced with no regard to the fact that they were set up with loans from government financial schemes that have to be re-paid.
Nzwaligwa is angry with local councillors for failing to articulate problems faced by butchery owners.
"Some councillors supported the decision to ban the use of braai stands," he says. "There is a general lack of political support, although the Mayor (Amogelang Mojuta) supported our cause."
Nzwaligwa says the move to regulate liquor trading and ban braaiing runs contrary to the empowerment of indigenous businesses and employment creation and that the measures have backfired in the form of job losses and business closures.
The Mayor of Selebi-Phikwe, Amogelang Mojuta, says his council has drafted its position on the measures and sent it to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
"There are both advantages and disadvantages in the ban," Amogelang says. "But we now see more disadvantages coming out. Some butchery owners and farmers have loans to repay. Most of them started these businesses considering the high consumption of meat. Sales have now slumped."
He says the reduction of liquor trading hours has a negative impact as many consumers of liquor used to braai meat in the open. "We have sent in our recommendations to the Ministry of Trade," the Mayor says. "We have suggested a focus on hygiene rather than a ban on braaing."
A large number of poultry and pig farmers in and around Selebi-Phikwe have closed down due to low business. Most attribute the setback to lack of government support and cite the braai ban.
Those in the meat and liquor industries are not the only ones who are crying foul. Airtime vendors believe the government should protect them from established businesses.
Anna Motshidisi feels the government should promote informal trade and ban the sale of airtime in retail stores. "We are struggling to survive, yet the big businesses compete with us for customers. We are being squeezed out unfairly," Motshidisi points out.
She holds that established businesses should also be prohibited from selling cooked food and/or traditional dishes.
The government allows hawkers to sell cooked food at or near its offices in a move to promote the informal sector. Motshidisi says vendors will not become successful because supermarkets are also allowed to sell cooked food, including traditional cuisine.