Essential services ‘lack time’ to meet regulations

By Philippa Larkin Time of article published Mar 30, 2020

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Businesses that provide essential services do not have enough time to digest and comply with the final lockdown regulations, according to Gerhard Papenfus, the chief executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa.

Businesses that will be allowed to provide essential services during the lockdown are required to seek approval from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

This was announced by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, in terms of the regulations published late on Wednesday by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Such businesses are required to apply to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) via the Bizportal website at www.bizportal.gov.za and obtain a certificate from the commission that allows them to continue trading.

Patel has indicated that the Bizportal website would contain a menu icon listed as “Essential Service Businesses” through which an application can be made to the CIPC.

However, Papenfus said in a statement yesterday that since the final lockdown regulations were circulated only late on Wednesday afternoon, and the registration of companies for essential services was reported to start yesterday, the potential for perceived non-compliance with the lockdown regulations existed. This meant that companies might not have had sufficient time to comply.

“For the purpose of advising their respective business constituencies, business representative bodies will only have today (yesterday) to dissect the regulations,” he said.

He said there was no doubt that responsible businesses, which are exempted from the lockdown, as a result of them providing essential services as contemplated in the regulations, would continue doing business with the utmost regard for the letter and the spirit of the government’s drastic measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Production and ancillary services would be limited to essential goods and services.

The provisions stipulated that employees rendering essential services were exempted and should be allowed to tender their services.

In terms of the regulations, an employee performing an essential service or function must carry a letter complying with the requirements of the regulation and confirming that he or she is required to report for duty.

Papenfus said: “For the brief period that the site was functional earlier this morning (yesterday), businesses were unable to register.”

However,the Department of Trade Industry said in a statement that, as of 2pm yesterday, more than 10000 companies had registered as providers of essential goods and services.

“Most of these have been in food supply, medical and pharmaceutical services and transport services. We will provide a further update on communication platforms as to the number of registered businesses during the lockdown period,” the department said.

Patel had indicated in a previous media statement that “back-office staff” in non-essential services, such as staff responsible for payroll, would be allowed to travel to work if required.

However, this exception has not been included in the final regulations, Papenfus said.

“We assume that this exception is no longer applicable, and only critical personnel in essential services, which have registered on the Bizportal site, can travel to work,” Papenfus said.

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