Wednesday, 22 July 2020, was a perfect day for a protest; warm and sunny with nary a breeze. Ordinarily the village would be filled with visitors making the best of a wonderful winter’s day. Instead, it’s the locals who are out in force protesting Corona lockdown regulations that have choked off tourism – the valley’s economic lifeblood. Chef Patron Matthew Gordon of French Connection Bistro accurately captured the economic reality when he posted that “Our town is on life support”. So did the trending hashtag #jobssavelives.
After four months of lockdown, the hospitality industry in Franschhoek and the rest of South Africa is fighting desperately to survive. Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa, said that about 400 000 jobs have been lost in the sector since the imposition of the lockdown, with more businesses folding every day. Margot Janse, chief judge of the Eat Out Awards, summed up what is needed in a Cape Talk interview: “The curfew needs to move to a more realistic time that is respectful to our industry. The alcohol ban needs to be relaxed for the hospitality industry… We should be allowed to act as adults… Let us get back on our feet!”