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Vilakazi Str turns into a ‘ghost’ as Covid-19 effects take turns on tourism

DRIVIN’ THROUGH Soweto over this weekend lead me to the world’s famous street Vilakazi, it was work related just to clear that out...

Vilakazi Str turns into a ‘ghost’ as Covid-19 effects take turns on tourism

Its popular for having produced two world Peace Nobel Laureates– Dr Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Desmond Tutu, as a result has drawn international visitors ready to spend their Yens and Euros.

Locals also play their part for being hospitable in sharing the uniqueness SA is synonymous for.

Vilakazi Street also boasts top eateries in the country such as Sakhumzi but this weekend what I saw was an eye-sore.

It was dead. No business. No flashy cars or patrons gyrating from one spot to another.

The only guests were cats and dogs fighting for attention, along the ‘ghost street’. All thanks to an invisible pandemic Coronavirus that has devastated both social and economic lives-globally.

The most affected are small businesses who sell anything from African-wares to spaza shops from hawkers to car-washers and security guards, who on a busy weekend can afford to smile from ear mouth.  

Be it direct or indirect- the Vilakazi Street has been a beacon of hope for many.

The question is post Covid-19, what will the situation be owing to rules and regulations that must be adhered to?

How many establishments will afford to open?

How many will lose their jobs?  

Sakhumzi Restaurant founder Sakhumzi Maqubela says he has since applied for relief funding at the tourism department but as yet nothing concrete has comeforth.

The question is if established eateries such as Sakhumzi struggle to access funding- what are chances for smaller ones in areas such as ‘Dzingi-Dzing?’

However, all is not gloom and lost since some emerging travel and hospitality companies have managed to obtain funding from the department.

Blessing Manale- spokesperson at tourism department was quoted:” Our focus is now to get the much-needed funds to desperate SMMEs.”

Manale said applications opened on April 7 and would close on May 31.

Many applications were received but without supporting documentation to allow for evaluation, says Manale.

“The application process is done online, including the mandatory documents which are downloaded into the system. There is an internal pre-screening committee led by a senior manager. The next phase is the evaluation which focuses on the functionality of the business, the pre- and post-pandemic business fundamentals of the enterprise and merit of the grant support.

“This assessment is conducted by a panel of external experts in finance and investment management who volunteered their services. The disbursements of funds is done by South African Tourism.”

As at May 10, 13,000 applications had been received.

Me hope uTata Mandela would NOT be turning in his grave and The Arch would ask for that divine intervention as the likes of Vilakazi Street seek to reclaim their glory – or cats and dogs will continue roaming as they please?

Image Mdu Mphahlele (The evening of a ‘ghost’ Vilakazi Street at Orlando, Soweto).

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