Johannesburg: As infection numbers continue to rise, there are fears that a return to more stringent lockdown conditions may be on the cards. Mozambik chief executive Manny Nichas believes that should it comes to pass, and trading is paused again, it will be the final nail in the coffin for the restaurant industry. Quite likely along with related industries like casinos, cinemas, aviation and other sectors where any kind of social interaction is necessitated. More than an estimated hundred thousand jobs may be at stake.
“Presently restaurants remain reliant on take-away and delivery business,” says Nichas, who notes that while stores are now able to invite customers in for sit-down meals, consumer nerves are shot and numbers for dine-in are trickling in. “Coupled with capacity constraints and the absurd regulations around the sale and consumption of alcohol, the industry as a whole remains paralysed in a worst-case scenario environment.” He adds that while Mozambik has curbed retrenchments until now, the company has had to implement short-time and salary cuts across the board.
“In Australia, the State of Victoria is returning to a strict lockdown at midnight tonight,” says Nichas, “but restaurants have been allowed to continue take-away and delivery services. Should the authorities at home elect to tighten the screws and revert to Lockdown Level 4 or 5, I hope that cognisance is taken of the giant survival risk we face. With more than a hundred days in lockdown already, many businesses and jobs have become casualties of both Covid-19 and associated, at times bizarre regulations.”
“Under total lockdown conditions, to quote the Sex Pistols, the economy would be like ‘flogging a dead horse’,” adds Nichas. “I care deeply about my colleagues and very much about our customers. But nose-diving back into an ill-considered zip-up of the economy will sow the seeds of destruction for everyone. There must be a way to manage this ongoing crisis where we can save jobs, save the economy, and save our country. Let’s not regulate ourselves into a bottomless pit.”
“At Mozambik we continue to innovate and plan, but the goalposts move daily, and bank balances don’t. We must stand together as a nation and as communities and work toward creating micro-economies, support structures and drive ideas. We have a wealth of highly talented people in this country, and now is the time to take the reins and lead one another to the water, drink it, and turn the tide on this awful situation we find ourselves in.”
Mozambik recently launched a community initiative, creating e-commerce opportunities for communities. “We are currently in a pilot phase, and, on success, will roll the initiative out nationally. It’s for the people, and will be by the people, so to speak. All with the aim of creating entrepreneurs and micro-economies and mini-supply chains nationwide. If we can grow this, we will be able to help many citizens and create several job opportunities,” says Nichas. “It’s time for companies to move away from only considering the bottom line. It is time for all of us to pull together and emerge victorious, like the Spartans in ancient Greece, we can overcome any challenge we face, together, as a nation.”