Looting | How three black-owned small businesses were negatively affected

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Sonto Pooe, founder of leading natural hair brand NativeChild. Photograph by Tiana Smith (www.belovedphotography.co.za)
Sonto Pooe, founder of leading natural hair brand NativeChild. Photograph by Tiana Smith (www.belovedphotography.co.za)

She started her natural hair brand in 2015 and now, six years later, after building a solid brand,  Sonto Pooe is worried about the future of her business amidst all the looting sprees that are happening in parts of the country.

With NativeChild products being sold at leading retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay, Game, Dischem, Clicks and Ackermans – which were all subjected to lootings – Sonto says that her business has negatively been affected.

READ MORE  | Nonkululeko Mdluli lost two optometry practices in one evening to looting

“The business has really suffered,” she tells TRUELOVE.

“Couriers are not able to collect orders due to the looting. Clients are also afraid to place orders because they might not receive them and we are not making any sales from retailers because some of them have closed shop, while others have been looted,” she says.

Pooe also says that people's livelihoods have been affected by the looting.

NativeChild founder, Sonto Pooe

"Our sales will be affected since some of the stores that stocked our products now have empty shelves; I'm certain some of our customers are probably amongst those who woke up after the aftermath without jobs . And yes, jobs will be affected, but this is the mountain we will have to overcome," she says.

"A business doesn't wake up one day and is a thriving business. It starts of like a seed and is nurtured to become a tree that bears fruits . A tree that not only feeds its owner but all in proximity. What has happened is cutting of the trees that feed communities. Yes, we will regrow the trees but it will take time and will only grow after much suffering, hunger and devastation that was completely unnecessary," she adds, before explaining how she fears what may happen when the lootings eventually stop.

There are suppliers, production teams, merchandisers, promoters, contracts in place , the marketing... something like this affects the whole value chain
Sonto Pooe

"There are so many moving parts to this. There are suppliers, production teams, merchandisers, promoters, contracts in place , the marketing, etc . So something like this affects the whole value chain. It's not just me. NativeChild supports so many industries and vice versa. Yes, we may be small but we help put food on so many families plates."

Speaking to TRUELOVE, 21-year-old Anothando Mbunyilwa - who owns House of Braiding hair salon in Pimville, Soweto - says that she has lost everything because her salon was broken into and looted on Monday.

“I found a space for my salon at a local shopping centre in Pimville after being tired of doing house calls for my clients. I wanted them to be able to come into a comfortable space to get their hair done, so I started renting a small shop in the centre in December,” she explains.

... they had taken my hairdryers, towels, ring lights, hair fibre, products and even salon chairs. The only thing that was left were my globes
Anothando Mbunyilwa

“Everything was going well and I had managed to buy some equipment for my shop but now everything has been taken,” she continues.

Mbunyilwa says that the looting of her salon happened suddenly and at a time she had not expected it.

“People were protesting at the shopping centre, so I went there to check what was going on. When I got there, I saw that they were looting from a butchery and a liquor store and even at a spaza shop that is nearby. People who knew me told me that I was lucky that my salon was not touched but advised me to remove my stuff from the shop,” she says.

Because she wasn’t carrying the keys to her salon, she went back home to fetch them but when she got home she received a call from the landlord.

Twitter screenshot.

“He called me and told me that my salon was also looted. I went there and discovered that they had taken my hairdryers, towels, ring lights, hair fibre, products and even salon chairs. The only thing that was left were my globes,” she says.

Although she had not gotten insurance for her business because she was focused on getting it registered first, Mbuyile says that she’ll have to use her savings to try and rebuild her business after the looting.

“Some people from Twitter have also offered to assist me with the funds to help to rebuild the business so I have hope that we’ll be able to recover after everything,” she concludes.

READ MORE | Meet Sonto Pooe, founder of leading natural hair brand NativeChild

Orland Pirates legend, Lucky Lekgwathi, also expressed the pain of losing his restaurant in Kliptown, Soweto being looted just three months after it was built.

“What hurts me the most about the restaurant being looted is that I opened it to empower the people from that community in Kliptown. I had eight employees from Kliptown who worked there,” he tells TRUELOVE.

“Where will they get food now? And how will we continue to try to empower people from our communities if they resort to demolishing everything we’ve built when things don’t go their way?” he asks.

Twitter screenshot.

Lekgwathi says that because his employees were dedicated to their jobs, he will move them to another branch of the restaurant which is currently being built in another location. As for rebuilding the restaurant in Kliptown, he says that he is very discouraged in doing so.

According to reports, the aftermath of the looting in Durban has left 45 000 businesses out of commission and stock worth and a estimated R16 billion in stolen stock, damage to infrastructure and equipment has been lost.

During a media briefing that was held on Wednesday, eThekwini mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, said that a large portion of small businesses in the city would not be able to recover and also said that 129 000 people were at risk of losing their jobs.

The looting sprees continue to happen around the country with Bloomberg reporting that over 200 shopping malls had been looted by mid-Monday afternoon.

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