Within only four days more than 10 000 businesses applied for financial assistance of nearly R3 billion from the Sukuma Relief Programme, the initiative to which Johann Rupert donated R1 billion to assist SMEs affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Applications for the funds have now been closed to allow Business Partners, the administrator of the initiative, to vet the applications and allocate funds to deserving businesses.
In a statement MD of Business Partners, Ben Bierman, said the high number of applications is indicative of the crippling impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on South African SMEs.
He said applications for funding amounted to R2.8 billion.
“This exceeds the available donated capital of R1 billion almost three times over. As such, we have decided to suspend access to the application portal with immediate effect.
“We will now be using the next seven days to assess the applications received and provide feedback to the applicants. Should we thereafter find that there is still capital available, either because some of the applicants were not verified and approved, or because we have managed to secure additional capital, we will then open the programme for applications again,” Bierman said.
Bierman added that the response is a cry for help from South Africa’s SME sector, and called on big business and corporations to also contribute to the Sukuma Relief Programme. “We realised when engaging with our clients that the situation is dire, but we have been surprised by the sheer number of SMEs that are in desperate need of assistance.
“As such, we are making a public plea to other big businesses that are looking to support local SMEs during this critical time.
“SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy and they are in need of financial assistance, now more than ever before, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now is the time to get involved and support each other,” Bierman said.
Bierman added that neither Business Partners nor its clients will benefit from the programme.
In terms of the initiative, SMEs could apply for grants of R25 000 in cash, which don’t have to be repaid, as well as loans of up to R1 million. The loans are interest-free for 12-months.
The South Africa Future Trust (SAFT), the fund based on R1 billion donation from the Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer family, also received more than 10 000 applications from businesses to support their employees. This fund is administered by ABSA, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.
In a statement the trust said the partner banks indicated that over 10 000 applications were received from SMEs, “putting us on track to exceed R250 million in approved loans over the next 48 hours. This would equate to over 20 000 individuals already benefitting from SAFT support.”