Ntshavheni accuses DA of peddling lies about Covid-19 relief funds for struggling small businesses
Johannesburg - A war of words broke out between Small Business Development Minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and the DA over allegations that the government department had failed to spend its R1.4 billion Covid-19 relief fund budget on small businesses.
The ministry, following reports which appeared in the media, has now accused the DA of allegedly spreading fake news.
Ntshavheni was reacting to a story published by Independent Media on Thursday in which DA spokesperson Jan de Villiers wrote to the parliamentary committee on small business asking it to haul Minister Ntshavheni before the committee and Parliament to give an explanation about the failure to spend the Covid-19 funds.
De Villiers, in his statement, clarified that his call was borne out of Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke’s second special report on the financial management of Covid-19 funds released on December 9.
In her report, Maluleke gave a detailed account of funds spent since April 2020 – a few days after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a R500bn Covid-19 fund which was aimed at fighting the virus, including providing relief measures to artists, businesses and workers in the country.
Ntshavheni, in her statement, however, did not point out any irregularities in the AG’s report but accused the DA of peddling misinformation on the expenditure on small businesses Covid-19 relief funds.
“Just some fact checking would have clarified that the Department of Small Business Development had only managed to reprioritise only R500 million for the SMME Debt Relief and not the purported R1.4bn as claimed by the DA. Of the 14 451 fully complete applications, Sefa [the Small Enterprise Finance Agency] approved 1 497 applications.”
She added that the disbursements supported the maintenance of the 23 254 jobs in the economy. From a mandate and development impact perspective, of the total SMMEs that were approved, 66.9% were black owned, 32.8% female owned, 20.8% youth owned and 0.3% were owned by persons with disabilities.
Ntshavheni added that her department and its agencies continue to work “diligently and tirelessly to promote SMMEs’ and Co-operatives' sustainability and economic recovery in these turbulent times”.
“Furthermore, the department is committed to clean, open, transparent management of funds and governance. A full report, with supporting data set, on the funds in question was submitted by the Department to the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development, which is representative of various political parties, including the DA.
“The Department of Small Business Development is focused on supporting SMMEs, co-operatives and informal businesses to recover under the new normal and difficult economic climate,” Ntshavheni said.
She said she had hoped that all political parties would commit to the partnership for economic recovery instead of “peddling fake news”.
In his reaction, the DA’s De Villiers said: “If she is accusing us of spreading fake news then per definition she is accusing the AG of spreading fake information and data. We are, however, only concerned that the Covid-19 funds must reach small businesses that need the funds most.”