Molloh Simelane formally established his events management company in 2010, and made a good living over the past decade. The 10-person team of Woza.com Communications offer a turnkey event staging service – from marquees and seating, to ablutions and catering, everything is included. Molloh himself can even be master of ceremonies if needed.
With its own infrastructure and equipment, Woza was perfectly positioned to arrange, manage and execute weddings, birthday parties, funerals and government events, among many others. Covid-19 brought this success story to an abrupt halt. “It came as a surprise. We did not expect it and things are certainly not going in the direction we hoped,” says Molloh. He describes the situation since his business closed on 26 March as hectic and a sad story. “It’s like finding myself in the ring with Mike Tyson – I don’t stand a chance.”
The Sukuma Fund survival grant, however, has given Molloh’s business a fighting chance. The money came through at exactly the right time, he says. “Some payments that were due at the end of March didn’t come through, so the grant made it possible for me to pay the rent on our warehouse in Durban and our office space, and to pay my staff’s salaries.” Molloh has managed to stretch his available cash, the Sukuma Fund grant included, to cover April, May and June, but the rest of the year remains shrouded in uncertainty. “I don’t see us coming back to normal before the end of the year; we can only hope there will be another round of relief aid.”
The protocols that allow small funerals are a lifeline for Woza, allowing the company to rent out its infrastructure and equipment, and earn a small income. “ These small jobs don’t meet all my obligations, but at least I can make some payments,” says Molloh. He is also grateful to understanding and accommodating landlords, and to the banks for payment holidays. “My worry is not so much about surviving now, but what will happen after lockdown lifts. It is very sad to know that not all businesses will recover.”
Contemplating the future, Molloh says he will do business differently, especially in terms of safeguarding his cash flow. “Only a foolish person will continue with business as usual. I have learned that you can never be prepared enough.”