Business in trouble

Business in trouble

MASERU – EVEN though there is still no single case of Covid-19 that has been reported in Lesotho, the business sector is already under severe strain as panic grips the Kingdom.
The hospitality industry is among those that have been severely hit.

The chairperson of the Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association (LHHA), ’Marethabile Sekhiba, told thepost yesterday that the industry is going through a hard time.
Bookings for international tourists and local functions have been cancelled.
“We have been the first ones to feel the brunt of corona, the amount of cancellations we have had is just too high,” Sekhiba said.

“Our cash flow has been badly affected as we have had to refund those who are cancelling,” she said.
The industry, she said, is trying to figure out how to cope with this coronavirus pandemic.
“We do not know what to do, we are afraid that we might have to send some people home,” she said, adding that “we will not be able to service our loans, pay bills and suppliers”.

She added that it would be better if they would get some sort of relief or waiver during this crisis on issues like tax, water and electricity.
She said similar measures have been adopted in countries such as the United Kingdom to keep businesses afloat.
“When we send employees home, we will not be able to pay them and this means that at least five more people who depended on them will also suffer.”
“This issue is causing serious stress to us.”

In the meantime, she said they are taking precautionary measures guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“As it is, it is very expensive to take these precautionary measures. Bills are shooting through the roof and supply of the necessary items is low.”
Sekhiba said at the rate at which things are happening, a single confirmed case in Lesotho is going to shut the industry down.

“The worrisome thing is the uncertainty surrounding finding a cure. We do not know when things will die down and by then our fear is how the industry will recover.”
Meanwhile, fitness facilities like Lehakoe Recreational Facility have also closed their doors. Gyms are considered to be a high risk place to catch the virus.
However, there are some like Cycle House that are still open to help individuals get their bodies healthier for the fight against coronavirus.

According to the owner of Cycle House, Mpho Phakoana, fitness is critical during this time and people should stick to precautionary measures.
Cycle House only takes 10 people per session and offers clients one-on-one sessions upon request.
Phakoana said the fitness industry is in the direct line of fire and will be hit badly by the virus.
“Unfortunately we are on our own, we are scared of the impact this virus will have on us because there are no options,” Phakoana said.

She said they are not even able to explore having online sessions due to poor internet connection, its cost and inadequate technological skills.
“We are considering public spaces but we are not even sure how we will make that work,” she said.
“We are having a tough time.”

She said small businesses will suffer even more during this crisis. She said she hopes the government will do something, like freezing bills and tax obligations, during this time.
“The biggest fear is if after all is said and done we will be able to open our doors as business. Our cash-flow is already down, with no income we will not be able to pay bills and are at a risk of being heavily indebted.”

The Entrepreneurship Network cancelled its monthly engagements in a quest to adhere to set guidelines by the Ministry of Health.
According to ’Mathobatsi Sekoere, the network is advising entrepreneurs to follow the precautionary measures announced by the Ministry of Health.

The Lesotho Microfinance Association (LEMFA) chairperson, ’Mamakamane Makamane, said the impact of coronavirus on small businesses is going to be terrible.
Makamane said micro finance organisations, especially those that are not insured, will be hesitant to issue loans.
“The situation was already bad, the economy was already not performing well. This virus is adding salt to the wound,” Makamane said.
She said the costs in addition to the precautionary measures will also be a challenge for most businesses.
“We can only put everything in God’s hands because it is clear that this virus is beyond our capabilities,” she said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

 

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