Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has stated that all South African businesses will be able to access financial assistance from the government during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.
The minister stated that small businesses will not have to be 50% black-owned to be able to access financial support, following reports that BEE requirements would need to be met to qualify for help.
“We are supporting all small businesses in South Africa across the demographic spread,” said the minister.
We will make sure there are geographic and demographics spreads which are representative, added the minister.
Businesses must also be 100% South African owned and must employ at least 70% South African nationals to qualify.
Priorities will be give to businesses owned by women, youth, and people with disabilities.
The announcement of the business qualification criteria follows the publication of a draft document 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 was therefore not clear whether this qualifying criteria would 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 asks for the gender and race of their shareholders.
It also asks applicants about the gender and race breakdown of their employees.
When asked about the matter on social media, billionaire Johann Rupert – who pledged R1-billion in assistance to the government’s efforts as part of the Solidarity fund – said his funds will be available to all small businesses and their employees, and not only black-owned 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.
The screenshots below detail the online debate around the business assistance funding.