POLITICAL NEWS - In response to stipulations regarding applications for funding from various government relief funds set up to assist small to medium enterprises during the nation’s lockdown period, the Democratic Alliance has accused certain government ministers of racialising Covid-19 relief measures.
This after ministers such as Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Thoko Didiza of the department of tourism and agriculture respectively stated that their departments would be following the applicable Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Codes and prioritising female-led enterprises in the distribution of the funds allocated to their departments.
“The Democratic Alliance rejects the application of racial criteria in determining eligibility for government relief for businesses affected by Covid-19,” declared the party in a statement drafted by it interim leader John Steenhuisen.
“We call on president Ramaphosa to immediately instruct the ministers in his cabinet to comply with his government’s own assurances given on 24 March that assistance to Covid-stricken businesses will be available to all South Africans.”
Steenhuisen cited a letter written by Kubayi-Ngubane, addressed to the MMC for economic opportunities in the city of Cape Town James Vos, that allegedly stated that the tourism department will be guided by BEE codes in administering the Tourism Relief Fund.
“There are also indications that relief in the agriculture sector will exclude commercial farmers and will only be available to emerging farmers,” added Steenhuisen in reference to a communique about how farmers can apply for relief funding.
He further accused the department of small business development for trying to backtrack on the contents of a leaked draft document which indicated the government’s alleged intention to racialise the relief effort.
“First, this document stipulating a 51% black ownership requirement, was called ‘fake news’ but it soon emerged that it was a legitimate, albeit earlier, draft of government’s SMME relief plan. Government immediately set about reassuring South Africans that these relief measures would be available to all, regardless of race.”
The DA believes that it is fast becoming apparent that race was always going to one of the deciding criteria when applying for government assistance.
“This would perhaps explain why we never received a reply from Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel after DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry Dean Macpherson wrote to him the 19th of March requesting a moratorium on BEE to ensure that all South African businesses have access to emergency funding.
“It is also unlikely to be a coincidence that government’s hasty public backtrack on race as criteria happened as they were busy fundraising for this relief fund, but now that the money – billions of Rands from private companies and individuals – is in the bank and the disbursement is about to begin, the race criteria is suddenly back.”
The party then went on to highlight what they call the “bitter irony” of these criteria; that the overwhelming majority of employees who will suffer the effects of this folly more than employers are black people.
“But even in the face of this undeniable fact, the ANC cannot bring itself to do what is right. They still consider the race of the employer more important than the plight of the employee.”