R1.5bn in funding approved for riot-hit businesses

The government had to hit the ground running to support businesses affected by July’s unrest. This is a lesson heeded by the agencies and institutions tasked with coming to the rescue of riot-hit firms, according to Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) chief executive TP Nchocho.

In the wake of the unrest — which tore through parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, costing businesses billions of rand — the government responded by establishing a R3.75-billion relief package.

The funding was allocated to the department of trade, industry and competition, the IDC and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), which have been charged with distributing the money.

The package is available in the form of zero-interest loans, bridging finance and grants.

During a briefing on Tuesday, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel announced that together the IDC and the NEF have so far approved R1.5-billion in direct support, benefiting 320 business sites. 

Nchocho told the same briefing: “What we have learned across the world, where there have been situations of conflict or unrest, is that speed is of the essence in terms of getting help out to those who need it.”

According to Nchocho, about 20 IDC employees were seconded from their regular work to focus on the funding process. The funding assessment process was streamlined and the decision-making protocols were streamlined to allow the executive of the IDC “to move with speed”.

About 70% of the funding approved by the IDC has already been disbursed, Nchocho noted. “So it is a very cohesive operating system that we have created to effect this intervention,” he said.

Earlier in the briefing, Patel recounted the “enormous economic damage” that was wrought by the riots and looting. “The livelihoods of ordinary South Africans was deeply, deeply undermined. We had not only business owners staring ruin in the face, but many workers were left with premises that were burnt or looted,” he said.

“And in that context, we needed to move with some speed.”

NEF chief executive Philisiwe Mthethwa echoed these sentiments. The NEF was allocated R650-million for its relief efforts by the department of trade and industry. The Solidarity Fund contributed a further R150-million.

“We had to hit the ground running. We had to be agile so that we could then make sure that we bring all of these companies back into operation,” Mthethwa said.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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