The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) will provide the country’s canegrowers with R85 million in relief funding, after the sector lost more than R84 million in revenue due to the unrest and looting seen in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in mid-July.
This funding is in addition to the R1.5 billion the department has to date approved to distribute to 120 businesses affected by the July unrest through its economic relief package – which it established with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and National Empowerment Fund (NEF).
Minister Ebrahim Patel announced the department’s plans at a media briefing on Tuesday. The funding which is intended to support 192 of the country’s canegrowers, will be provided by the IDC.
According to the SA Canegrowers association, growers in KZN lost 135 222 tons of revenue after cane was burnt during the unrest in the province, a third of which (more than 38 000) belonged to small-scale growers.
Chairman of the association, Andrew Russel, said the IDC has “extended a crucial lifeline” to farmers.
The financial relief package provided by the department in collaboration with the IDC and NEF, took a blended approach, with the relief existing either as a loan or a grant. To date, about R700 million of the funds has been distributed in the form of grant payments.
IDC CEO Tshokolo Petrus Nchocho said 70% of the funding it has approved has been disbursed. He added that just about R600 million [worth] of new applications are being processed and are in the due diligence phase.
The department called on affected businesses to continue submitting their claims for support, as it looks to unlock more funds to support their recovery and that of the overall economy.
“The department itself is working with industrial parks and other players where there’s been physical damage and where it requires the co-payment with Sasria [South African Special Risk Insurance Association] to be unlocked – which requires their processes of assessment before construction starts. So, there is another few hundred million rands that we expect will be unlocked from that,” Nchocho added.
Funeral services business, Icebolethu Funeral Group in KwaZulu-Natal was one of the businesses affected by the unrest. The business, which had 24 of its offices across the province looted – three of which were burned down – says it has already received half of the funding it has claimed from the department’s relief package through the NEF.
CEO and founder Nomfundo Mcoyi said she struggled with the idea that looters seemed to have no respect for death and the families of the deceased as they mercilessly looted the business she has been building for over 10 years.
“To see the very same people we are helping , the very same people whom we are employing their family members looting our branches and breaking down and burning down everything – taking caskets and carrying food with caskets and taking caskets to the streets – was a such a bad experience,” Mcoyi said.
“We have always respected death but seeing what happened in July, was so disrespectful to our community at large,” she added.
Mcoyi says that although she has only received half of the funds she had claimed for from the department’s relief scheme – through the NEF – her business has not retrenched a single employee.
According to Patel, the experience of having to process relief funds to expectant business owners timeously and efficiently has reiterated the need to reduce the red-tape that comes with doing business with government.
“Yes, there are regulations that we have to live by, but too many times our systems have become rigid, slow… So there’s too much red-tape there’s too much slowness in the processes,” Patel said.
Patel said business people should not have to contend with government’s countless regulations. Rather there should be government employees who assist businesses with navigating the red-tape and simplifying the process.
“Business people are business people. They know how to make clothes, they know how to cook and make food, they know how to run logistics businesses. They are not government experts, they don’t know what our requirements are. And if we hold their hands and help them in that journey we can unleash them to do what they do best: which is to run businesses.