Ramaphosa urged to intervene in Tourism Relief Fund’s race criterion for Covid-19 help
Pretoria - Trade union Solidarity has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane's decision to use race as the criterion for granting coronavirus (Covid-19) economic relief aid, the union said on Sunday.
Solidarity and civil rights group AfriForum would go to court on April 28 in a bid to have the tourism department's decision to use race as criterion during the Covid-19 crisis reviewed, Solidarity said in a statement.
In a letter to Ramaphosa, Solidarity asked him to "intervene politically and that a settlement be reached outside of court, wherein parties agree that race cannot be used as criteria to award help".For the sake of the legal process, Solidarity asked the president to respond before or on Monday, April 27 at 9am.
Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said this case should not be on the court roll. Help offered based on race would divide South Africa in this time of crisis.
"You have called on fellow South Africans, on several occasions, to stand together in this fight against this new invisible enemy in order to protect the lives of our loved ones and our resources. This invisible virus knows no colour and discriminates against no one. Everyone is affected and everyone must stand together,” Hermann wrote.
However, the department of tourism had decided differently. Unlike the virus, the Tourism Relief Fund discriminated based on race. Race was a criterion for help. During one of the biggest crises in South Africa, South Africans were still divided by race.
“You ask for everyone’s help, yet the minister of tourism does not want to help everyone. Tourism is going to be the last sector to recover after the Covid-19 crisis. This sector is severely affected by the government’s regulations and it will take a long time to recover."
This fund excluded large businesses, most white-owned micro-businesses, and small enterprises that were not tax-registered (most of them being black-owned). Only companies with a turnover of less than R5 million per year and registered for tax purposes qualified for help from the fund.
A small group of black owners, only seven percent of the sector, would qualify for the lion’s share of the relief. In total, 93 percent of owners, including thousands of small informal black-owned businesses, were excluded from receiving any assistance, Hermann wrote.
“Of the 350,000 employees in the sector, two out of three are black. This fund excludes the vast majority of these breadwinners. In the process, this fund is committing double discrimination in a crisis – first towards the white business owners and secondly towards all workers, white and black alike..
“In court documents the department of tourism offered black empowerment, which was designed for a specific purpose, as its defence. The purpose of black empowerment is to correct the disadvantages of the past. This fund is not about benefiting those previously disadvantaged; it is about survival.
“According to black economic empowerment regulations, micro enterprises are exempt from black economic empowerment requirements in normal circumstances. Amid the Covid-19 crisis, black empowerment, with the many administrative and financial obligations that come with it, suddenly applies to these undertakings,” Hermann wrote.
“In this crisis, the hurdle that must be overcome by white companies became much higher than what it is under normal circumstances. You said that the coronavirus could leave a positive legacy, which is bringing South Africans together through the determination for survival. This help offered based on race can divide South Africans. It can be the negative legacy of the coronavirus crisis.
“In the meantime, Solidarity will continue to do everything in its power to help fight the virus fearlessly and to help people to work in a healthy environment. We are praying for you and everyone in our beautiful country,” Hermann wrote.