Life at Rosh Pinah had literally come to a standstill due to the crippling strike that ended recently at the zinc mine, seen as the economic mainstay of the town as could be attested by the multitudes of residents that struggled to make ends meet during the strike.
With no income for the mine workers during the strike, some businesses were forced to close down temporarily while those that remained open waited for customers that never came, as residents struggled to buy even basic commodities such as bread, butter and sugar.
The 53-day strike at the Rosh Pinah zinc mine crippled the economy of the mining town and while only about 300 workers took part in the action, the impact of the strike was felt by almost every resident.
The strike highlighted an open secret that Rosh Pinah is heavily reliant on mining, and most companies and their employees at the town exist as a support system for the two mines by rendering different services such as for security or catering.
Oranjemund Constituency Councillor Lazarus Nangolo says the two mines are the ones keeping Rosh Pinah alive and the strike paralysed all business operations.
He says businesses incurred huge losses as products got rotten because no one had money to buy from the shops, and this is worrisome looking to the future if the mines decide to shut down operations.
“If these mines close, I don’t think Rosh Pinah will exist anymore, so we need to establish new sectors to make this town self-sustainable,” he stressed.
SPYL Oranjemund District Secretary Linus Simon said residents felt the impact of the strike as if all of them were employed by the mine because most people depend on mine workers for survival.
He noted that many small businesses were affected, because no one could buy their products or use any of their services.
“You don’t even have anything to eat, so how can you take your car to be washed? So this means the SMEs were totally not functioning,” he said on the impact of the strike on small businesses.
Linus called for diversification of the economy at Rosh Pinah, saying that once the mines close it will be very difficult for people to continue surviving if this (diversification) is not done as a matter of urgency.
“This town only depends on the mines, what will happen if they close? Where will we take all these people and some have been here for 20 years?” he asked.
Although New Era could not establish the losses incurred by big shops at the town, residents say some shops had to give away some of their products to avoid them getting rotten and going to waste.
“Some shops gave bread and other items to the striking workers – they didn’t have a choice because things were getting rotten in the shops,” said one resident who refused to be named.
Sitting alone in his clothing shop, Mathias Pandeni says business was not good since the strike began, and because he didn’t get an income during this period, he will only be able to pay half of his usual rent.
This temporary solution seems to be one taken by most affected businesses, and residents New Era spoke to stated that some big companies have also opted to pay employees only half of their salaries.