A glimmer of hope for looted businesses destroyed in July’s civil unrest
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Johannesburg - South Africa finally has a clearer picture of the damage that was caused by the looting and unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July and, as expected, the losses run into billions.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Communication (DTIC), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) presented their economic recovery support interventions to the tune of R38.9 billion to Parliament this week.
The Black Business Forum (BBF) said it was encouraged by the relief package to assist businesses that were affected by the widespread unrest and looting and the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions to Level 4 from June 28 to July 25.
The organisation admitted it had feared that township businesses could be sidelined from the government's relief funds. According to the report presented to Parliament, a large portion of the support package (R26.7bn) will go towards the extension of the social relief of distress grants until the end of March 2022, to provide help to the poor.
Beneficiaries include the 6 million unemployed adults who do not receive other grants and 3.5 million unemployed caregivers of poor children.
The DTIC said it had managed to save 3 800 jobs through applications approved to date.
The presentation revealed that 100 malls and shops were burnt or sustained significant fire damage, 112 shopping centres were looted or damaged, 1 223 ATMs were destroyed and 269 bank branches were damaged.
A total of 1 787 retail stores were damaged, 3 931 retail stores were looted or affected by the unrest, 90 pharmacies were destroyed and 113 communication infrastructure points were damaged.
In KZN, 45 warehouses, 22 factories, 139 schools, 37 delivery trucks and stock worth R1.5 billion was looted. The loss in both provinces from the looting amounts to R20bn.
The DTIC and its partners said they visited several sites around the country and held virtual meetings and telephone discussions to provide more detailed feedback from affected businesses or to gain practical insights on the relief needed. Some 135 farms in KZN suffered extensive damage when the sugar cane was burnt.
The secretary-general and national spokesperson for BBF, Sifiso Shezi, said at first there were concerns that uninsured township businesses would be left to fend for themselves and that would have meant certain doom.
“We are a lot more optimistic about the relief funds. Even municipalities are now assisting those business owners who were affected. We are still concerned that some businesses may not meet all the requirements but we are working together to help everyone,” he said. BBF has about 3 000 members, many of whom form part of the informal economy and may not be tax compliant or registered.
“We are talking about someone who literally used their own money and started selling bread, milk and sugar. When you live hand to mouth, you are not worried about Sars (SA Revenue Service). But there are agencies who can assist these kinds of business owners. Help is available,” he said.
For a business to qualify for the relief fund, it has to meet requirements such as being a registered legal entity in South Africa, especially in the affected provinces, and having a valid tax clearance certificate from Sars.
The good news, according to DTIC spokesperson Bongani Lukhele, is that there will be support for uninsured companies.
“There will be concessionary loans with grants. For insured companies, there will be a bridging loan facility at zero percent while waiting for claims to be processed. Township businesses will not be excluded by both IDC (R100 million set aside for grant funding to SMMEs in township and rural areas) and NEF – they have already approved some companies in the townships,” he said.
Shezi said while BBF members are aware of the help that is available, it’s up to them to make it happen.
“Not everything will be brought to you. We all need to provide solutions. We need to get our economy back on its feet,” he said.
Business owners affected by the looting are encouraged to contact the DTIC and partners at: