Relief for small businesses

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation.

All small businesses can apply for Covid-19 relief funds.

This is in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the national 21-day lockdown on Monday March 23.

He said government would support the vulnerable and in consultation with social partners, had set up a Solidarity Fund to which South African businesses, organisations and individuals and members of the international community contribute.

The fund would focus efforts to combat the spread of the virus, help track the spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted.

Deposits of money into the fund were made ahead of Mr Ramaphosa’s speech.

To get things moving, the government has provided seed capital of R150 million and the private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial contributions in the coming period.

“We will be spending money to save lives and to support the economy,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

The Rupert and Oppenheimer families donated R1 billion each to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

A safety net is being developed to support people in the informal sector, where most businesses will suffer as a result of this shutdown.

Mr Ramaphosa said more details would be announced as soon as they had completed the work of assistance measures that would be put in place.

The Department of Small Business Development had made more than R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.

The Department of Tourism had made an additional R200 million available to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism and hospitality sector who were under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.

“I want to make it clear that we expect all South Africans to act in the interest of the South African nation and not in their own selfish interests,” said Mr Ramaphosa.

James Vos, mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, commended big businesses for their contribution towards the relief fund, which small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) could tap into.

He also encouraged other businesses to dig deep in their hearts and purses.

In a statement he corrected misinformation that racial criteria would determine whether applicants qualified for funds.

“I would like to allay all fears and ask SMMEs not to listen to misinformation, but rather to verify rumours and fake news through the correct channels,” he said.

Mr Vos had received numerous requests for clarity on whether racial criteria would be applied in order to qualify for the Covid-19 relief funds.

He wrote to Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the Minister of Small Business Development and Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the Minister of Tourism, to seek urgent clarity on this matter and to make it clear that the relief funding to SMMEs will not be based on race.

“We will continue to use all avenues available to ensure that race does not exclude any SMMEs from the assistance they need to keep going,” he said.

“As a City, we understand that the stakes are too high and too many jobs and livelihoods are on the line. All SMMES are depending on quick and easy access to funding to get through this difficult time,” Mr Vos said.

He said they would support the national government during this time to ensure that all Cape Town-based SMMEs receive the necessary relief.

“We all need to work together during these trying times. Our economy, like the rest of the world, is suffering and we need to pull together to rejuvenate it post this pandemic,” he said.

For more on the Solidarity Fund, log on to www.solidarityfund.co.za