The South African Rand. File Picture
The South African Rand. File Picture

R21m set to rescue Covid-19 hit SMMEs within eThekwini Municipality

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published May 26, 2021

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DURBAN - SMALL businesses operating within eThekwini Municipality, still reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, are set to benefit from the R21 million economic recovery stimulus approved by the city’s executive committee (Exco) yesterday.

This comes as new data reveals that at least 72% of the country’s small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) are in financial distress, with KwaZulu-Natal among the hardest hit provinces. Exco heard that of the 2 942 small businesses that met the criteria for qualification, only 700 would be assisted because of a limited budget. Scattered around the city’s seven regions and including those in rural and township areas, the SMMEs would be paid R30 000 each.

The sectors include rural and townhip based taverns, catering businesses, spaza shops, construction, tourism establishments, co-operatives, including those doing business with the city, agribusinesses, salons, coastal businesses, retail and flea-market business.

The businesses have been identified from the North (OThongathi and surroundings), Upper North (such as KwaMashu), South (including uMbumbulu and neighbouring areas), Lower South (KwaMakhutha and uMlazi), the CBD, Inner West (Pinetown and KwaNdengezi) and the Outer West (Hammarsdale and surroundings) regions.

It had been recommended before the oversight committee, which endorsed the report, that 100 beneficiaries be assisted in each of the seven regions.

In addition to senior officials from the city’s various clusters, the committee included the Minara Chamber, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the co-chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Coalition, Moses Tembe, Mawethu Mosery of the Electoral Commission of South Africa, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the city’s Invest Durban entity.

To qualify, the entrepreneurs had to have a city-approved trading permit or business licence, an active bank account, provide proof of losses due to the lockdown, and shouldn’t have received any other pandemic-related relief from the government.

Apart from those that fell outside the relief net because of budgetary constraints, the city rejected 1 408 applications that failed to meet the criteria on the basis of having benefited from government relief schemes, being asylum seekers with expired permits, and those thought to be financially stable.

Welcoming the relief aid, Jabulani Nzama, the owner of the uMlazi-based Eyadini Lounge, said he was yet to learn whether his application was approved.

“Even though the R30 000 is a relatively small amount, we would appreciate it as some measure of relief. We have been badly devastated by the lockdowns, and we continue to suffer because of the ongoing curfew,” said Nzama, who added that he had been forced to lay off about 65 employees, leaving him with 20 full-time and 15 temporary staff members.

“We would even be happy if the municipality can further consider giving us about 25% off the monthly electricity bill. We are a small business which is a big tourist attraction,” he said.

A staggering 72% of small businesses had sought business rescue support, advice and assistance on how to stay afloat, according to the Covid-19 Business Rescue Initiative (Cobra), a nonprofit started in March last year.

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