Billionaire Johann Rupert said his R1-billion assistance will be available to all small businesses and their employees, and not only black-owned businesses.
On Monday 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days which will begin from midnight on Thursday 26 March.
This will have a devastating effect on the South African economy and businesses, with some economists predicting massive job losses.
To limit the economic impact of the shutdown on the economy, Ramaphosa said the government will be spending money to save lives and to support the economy.
“Government is providing seed capital of R150 million and the private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial contributions in the coming period,” he said.
He also applauded the contribution made by the Rupert and Oppenheimer families of R1 billion each to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
All South Africans will benefit from Rupert’s money
Shortly after this announcement, screenshots of a document started to circulate on social media which suggested that only black-owned businesses will qualify for financial assistance.
The document stated that for an SMME to qualify for relief, it “must be 51% black-owned”.
The Department of Small Business Development highlighted this was a draft document from a week ago and was still under revision.
“It was not meant to be shared with the public,” the department said on Twitter.
It is therefore not clear whether the same qualifying criteria will hold in the final version of the SMME relief funding document.
The government’s SMME website where small and medium-sized businesses can apply for funding also clearly asks for the gender and race of their shareholders.
It also asks applicants about the gender and race breakdown of their employees, which are typically associated with BEE requirements.
When Rupert was asked about the alleged “black-owned-only” assistance his response was clear – “Our assistance will be available to ALL South African businesses”.
It must be noted that Rupert’s donation is part of the Solidarity fund, which is separate from the government’s SMME relief fund.
To qualify for access to the SMME fund, businesses will be required to register on the SMME South Africa platform here.
MyBroadband contacted the Department of Small Business Development for more information about the issue, and a spokesperson said more details will be shared at a briefing today.
The screenshots below detail the online debate around the business assistance funding.