Kathu – In Kathu one currently finds almost one car for each
camel thorn tree.
This Northern Cape mining town, situated in a camel thorn
forest, was turned on its head on December 15 when Kumba Iron Ore [JSE:KIO], for which most of the
10 000 residents work, paid out large sums of money to permanent employees as
part of its Envision share scheme.
The money has since flowed freely.
The people of Kathu have bought cars on a grand scale.
According to municipal manager Moses Grond, traffic congestion is now so
serious that in the mornings it takes anything from half an hour to an hour to
travel less than the 5km to the mine. Those who previously used the mine's bus
service have taken to commuting with their own wheels.
“As a result we have had
to upgrade the road and erect two traffic lights,” he said.
There are no motor dealerships in Kathu, but dealers from
Kuruman, Kimberley and Upington exhibited on a parking terrain beside the local
Fit-it company, reports Rudi Combrinck, its owner. Exhibitors included Toyota,
Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors and Yamaha motorcycle agencies.
One dealer in second-hand cars with whom Sake24 spoke,
brought along vehicles from Lichtenburg and in the past three weeks sold 20
from a bakkie on the pavement – all for cash.
Furniture is also selling like hot cakes, says Elsabé Faber,
manager of Beares in Kathu. “Our budgeted income for December was R423 000 and
we have already reached R1m. Only 3% of that is on credit.
"Even our branch in
Kuruman, which has a target of R500 000, has reported R840 000.” Faber said the
greatest challenge has been to stock up and deliveries from the Kimberley
warehouse had to be increased.
She said the December income of a salesperson normally
earning R7 000 a month shot up to R28 000, thanks to commission on the Kumba
Not all shops in the town have benefited equally, but in the
Kathu Village Mall things were hopping, said centre manager Riekie Terblanche.
Compared with the previous December, last month saw a 19%
increase in traffic, she said. These were not new people, but the same ones
returning again and again to buy.
According to provisional figures the amount spent in the
centre on spectacles and sunglasses was 328% up on the previous December. About
189% more was spent on jewellery and 132% more on stationery.
explained the stationery category includes electronic goods like cameras,
laptops and PlayStation and Xbox game consoles.
Men's clothing sales rose (96% up) more than those of
women's clothing (54%), and restaurant and fast-food establishment turnovers
Rudi Bothma, manager of the Superspar in the centre, said
his grocery store’s turnover was 53% up and that of the Tops liquor store next
Annette Schoultz said DStv installations by their family
business, J&R Computers, increased dramatically in December. Instead of the
30 installations per month, between December 15 – when the money was paid out –
and Christmas there were 49 installations.
The shop moreover sold 20
high-definition personal video recorders (HD PVRs), for which there is normally
Many residents are worried Kumba employees will waste
their money. Most members of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) at Kumba
earn about R5 000 a month, Num representative Lesiba Seshoka said earlier.
The manager of one of the smaller banks in Kathu, which must
be unnamed according to company policy, said that the amount deposited in it in
December was three times more than in a normal month.
Many Kumba workers also settled their overdue accounts with
the Gamagara Municipality, said Grond. The municipal council had previously
made arrangements with defaulters.
He showed Sake24 one account on which more than R18 000 had
been owing, but would had been settled in full after the Kumba payout. These
payments had improved the council's cash flow.
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