The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) will provide the country’s sugarcane producers with funding of R85 million, after the sector lost more than R84 million in revenue due to the unrest and looting observed in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in mid-July.
This funding is in addition to the 1.5 billion rand the ministry has approved to date to distribute to 120 businesses affected by the July unrest as part of its economic relief program – which it established with Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF).
Minister Ebrahim Patel announced the department’s plans at a press conference on Tuesday. Funding, intended to support 192 sugar cane growers in the country, will be provided by the IDC.
According to the SA Canegrowers association, KZN producers lost 135,222 tonnes of income after the cane was burned during unrest in the province, of which a third (over 38,000) belonged to small producers.
Association president Andrew Russel said the IDC had “extended a crucial lifeline” to farmers.
More than R 1 billion in relief funding already approved for businesses affected by unrest – Patel
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A comprehensive approach
The financial assistance provided by the ministry in collaboration with the IDC and the NEF has adopted a blended approach, with the assistance being either a loan or a grant. To date, around 700 million Rand of the funds have been distributed in the form of grants.
IDC CEO Tshokolo Petrus Nchocho said 70% of the funding he approved has been disbursed. He added that roughly R600 million [worth] new requests are being processed and are in the due diligence phase.
The ministry called on the companies concerned to continue submitting their requests for support as it seeks to release more funds to support their recovery and that of the economy in general.
“The department itself works with industrial parks and other actors where there has been physical damage and where it demands co-payment with Sasria [South African Special Risk Insurance Association] to unlock – which requires their assessment process before construction begins. So there are a few hundred million more rand which we believe will be released, ”Nchocho added.
One of the businesses affected by the unrest was funeral services company Icebolethu Funeral Group of KwaZulu-Natal. The company, which looted 24 of its offices across the province – three of which were set on fire – says it has already received half of the funding it claimed from the department’s relief program through the NEF.
CEO and founder Nomfundo Mcoyi said she struggles with the idea that looters seem to have no respect for the dead and the families of the deceased as they mercilessly plunder the business she has been building for more than 10 years.
“To see the same people that we help, the same people that we employ with their family members looting our branches and breaking everything and burning everything – taking coffins and carrying food with coffins and taking coffins on the streets – was such a bad experience, ”Mcoyi said.
“We have always respected death, but seeing what happened in July was so disrespectful to our community as a whole,” she added.
Mcoyi says that although she received only half of the funds she claimed from the department’s relief program – through the NEF – her company did not lay off any employees.
According to Patel, the experience of having to process funds to aid future business owners in a timely and efficient manner has reiterated the need to reduce the red tape associated with doing business with government.
“Yes, there are regulations that we have to follow, but too many times our systems have become rigid, slow… So there is too much paperwork, there is too much slowness in the processes,” Patel said.
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Patel said business people shouldn’t have to deal with myriad government regulations. Rather, there should be government employees helping businesses navigate the bureaucracy and streamline 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 manage logistics companies. They are not government experts, they do not know our requirements. And if we hold their hands and help them on this journey, we can let them do what they do best: run businesses.