Tafelsig entrepreneurs who have been operating from business hives at Mitchell’s Plain’s Nelson Mandela Youth and Family (Thusong) Centre for almost three years are being forced to close shop.
Three of the six original entrepreneurs, running a bakery, furniture design and bicycle shops, told the Plainsman how they simply cannot afford the electricity costs.
Mastoera Collop stopped baking from the hive in January this year. The electricity she had been allocated was too little for her to run her oven and work her mixer at the same time.
“We are struggling entrepreneurs and there is not enough electricity. We were put here to fail,” she said.
The business hives opened to entrepreneurs in December 2013, offering them free use of the facility, with limited electricity.
Two years later, Ms Collop said she enquired about getting extra electricity but no help was forthcoming. Last year she got her own electrician to increase her electricity but in April this year council service providers took her connections out.
Ms Collop sold more than 300 rolls a day, in addition to different breads and confectionery, to hawkers at schools and Town Centre.
Tafelsig residents could also walk into her shop for fresh, affordable rolls. She bought second-hand bakery equipment, worth R60000, which she is still paying off.
“I had asked the facility manager up to 12 times for more electricity but to no avail,” she said.
Ms Collop said even if she used her home oven at the bakery, she would not be able to use her hand mixer.
When the bakery was operating, Ms Collop could employ six people to help mix, clean, package and serve customers.
In May she was slapped with a tampering fee of R5 431.
“Where am I supposed to get this kind of money,” she said.
Ms Collop said she was prepared to pay for electricity but no one could direct her accordingly.
“Now when I have closed shop this happens and I can’t afford it. I’m still paying off the equipment, which I can’t use without electricity,” she said.
Ms Collop said there was an internet café at the centre but only two of their five computers could operate at a time. “We worked well together because if someone at the internet café needed something to eat, they got something from the bakery or the fish shop, which also closed shop because fryers could not run on the minimal electricity,” she said.
Rushdi Naude, 67, makes wooden furniture but cannot switch on his tools even after buying R100 worth of electricity. Since moving in he had wanted to teach youth the craft, so they can generate their own income but he said he was never given any support. “At the time I was very enthusiastic, before working from the hive, I used to sell my furniture from the pavement outside the clinic,” he said.
He applied for a permit to sell from the pavement, when he was told about the business hive pilot project. Mr Naude said he buys R100 electricity but only gets four units. “I can’t even switch on my machines,” he said.
He said service charges are being deducted. “I’m not getting any younger and I would like my last days to be of service but here I am fighting to stay open,” he said.
The bicycle shop was closed on Friday November 24, when the Plainsman visited the business hives.
The Plainsman put it to the City of Cape Town that the entrepreneurs face eviction and were each given different reasons.
Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, said the City was not aware of any tenants being evicted.
“At present there is no lease agreement and the organisations do not pay rental,” he said.
“However, tenants are required to pay for utilities such as electricity,” said Mr Andrews.
The hives serve small businesses within Tafelsig.