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Artists Hard-Hit by Restaurant Closures In Plettenburg Bay

It’s been 2 months since the ban against the operation of restaurants has been lifted and yet many artists operating close to these restaurants in Plettenberg Bay are still suffering.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced stricter lockdowns measures which saw many restaurants close to the public, artists say they are struggling.

Artists who trade next to the restaurants, and depend on their customers and tourists for income, say they might be forced to close shop.

Fungai Munzwa, from Zimbabwe, is one of them. He has a stall close to the now-closed restaurants.
He thought his business will not survive during the bun and is still struggling to get customers.

“I did not think I would survive the second time around, my work dependent on the daily operation of these restaurants. even though the ban was restricted people still do not come to restaurants like before, if they do they only come to eat and leave and not even entertain us like before, I think they are used to spending less time in public spaces” said Muzwa

Munzwa has been living in South Africa for 15 years, operating his art business. He started this business after he struggled to find work. He then partnered with artists who specialised in woodwork.

They worked together until he was able to open his own stall where he now sells an assortment of bead-work, wood and wire sculptures.

“Before the pandemic, in summer I would make close to R40000 or more, selling my work to people coming to the restaurants and because winter is cold and no one comes to restaurants or to the beach a lot, I would make R10000 to 15000 thousand,”

“My last big sale was in February 2020. Before the national lockdown where I managed to sell my R15000 made of bead elephant, that was my last big sale “.said Munzwa.

Munzwa pays R471.50 to the Bitou Municipality every month for the trading permission. He spends R1500 a month for rent and sends R2000 back home to his son and parents in Zimbabwe.

“ This year things are difficult. I’m struggling to make R1000 a week, and I still need to buy material to make more craft, buy food for my family that I stay with here, my wife and kid” 

“I didn’t even try applying for Grant from the National Arts Council, I saw how difficult it was for South Africans to get it. And though it is impossible for me because of my, nationality” concluded Munzwa

Practising artists whether emerging or established, with proven work experience of at least 12 months in any arts culture / creative genre are eligible to apply for an Artist Relief Grant.
The artists must be South African citizens with valid ID documents.

The Lookout Deck Restaurant is nestled between the lookout rocks and the lookout nature reserve and perched overlooking the incredible blue flag Lookout Beach.

These artists stand outside the restaurants, close to the parking lots, greeting every customer who comes in. They bring colour and excitement to tourists and kids.

However, not all artists can apply. Artists without Identity documents suffer, with no hope of where they can get compensation for loss caused by the pandemic of their work.
Next to Munzwa’s stall at the lookout beach, is the Phindile Pamnle.

He has resorted to pushing shopping trolleys for people coming out of supermarkets with groceries during this period.

“I spend my morning at the beach making sand sculptures and no one comes, I leave without making a cent and decide to push groceries in the afternoon”.

“ I wake up at seven, leave home at 8 am and start working at 9 in the morning until 1pm and rush to push trolleys. I get R5 per trolley, and when it’s a good day, I leave with R 35 a day.

“Though I do not have my own trolley, the guys who own this territory and have been pushing trolleys here for years, understood when I came to ask for a spot, they even offered to borrow me their own trolley, we are now sharing turns so that we all leave here with at least R15 a day,” said Pamnle.

According to Plett tourism CEO Patty Butterworth, the artists working close to the restaurants will suffer immensely.

“Prior to the current Level 4 restrictions, there was already a severe decline in tourist numbers and generally these artists rely on tourists as their main customer.

With the newly enforced restrictions, even fewer patrons are frequenting restaurants and those restaurants that have managed to survive through COVID are now focused on food delivery and food pick-up rather than a sit-in meal.

The impact of this may result in permanent closure for these artists” she said.

He added that the creative industries add a significant value for most towns, and in particular, smaller towns like Plettenberg Bay in Bitou.

“Not only can it be seen as key revenue for several individuals, but art is also part of our vibrant community’s lifeblood,” she said.

The constitution states that every citizen has the right to choose their trade, occupation, or profession freely. However, during this period, it has been tough for these artists to do so freely.

Butterworth said from their research conducted since lockdown measures were introduced last year they estimate that the town has lost in excess R674 million in tourism earnings between the months of October, November and December 2020 as the tourism industry experienced the cancellation of Plett Rage, the closure of their beaches and the ban on alcohol sales in hotels and restaurants.

“The sector is undoubtedly the leading source of income for Plettenberg Bay, generating an average of R3.9 billion in earnings annually pre-COVID. Tourism contributes significantly to Plett’s annual GDP and it is the largest employer in the town. The restaurant sector saw an average loss of greater than 50%.” concluded Butterworth.

The Department of home affairs and arts and culture is yet to respond.

By Siphokazi Mnyobe

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