No direction yet on what will happen to informal sector during the lockdown

It was not yet clear how informal traders and the self-employed would be assisted during the 21-day lockdown as government was still sketching its plan for how to aid them during the period.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown from midnight on Thursday to try to combat the Covid-19 outbreak.

This means all businesses will be shut down except for those providing essential services, such as healthcare, security, emergency services, food supply and the media.

The department of small business development has made more than R500 million available immediately to assist compliant and registered small and medium-sized enterprises that are in distress. This will be done through a simplified application process.

But for now, informal traders and the self-employed have been left out as government is still engaging with relevant stakeholders on how to offer financial relief, said Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

“We are working on a detailed plan on how to support the informal sector and the self-employed and we will announce that in due course. Non-compliant SMMEs do not qualify as part of the informal sector. We have put a system in place to support those to comply in terms of our programme to support SMMEs,” she said.

Spaza shops fell into the list of essential services, as they would be operating to supply goods and food to communities. Shops owned by foreign nationals should also comply with municipal bylaws, added Ntshavheni.

“We are going to finalise the discussion on spaza shops. Our issue is that we have to support them to source goods and services. We are looking at those who are licensed by municipalities. If they are licencsd and the municipality has systems in place to support them, we will consider them, but we will indicate that as we release the regulations.”

She debunked allegations that the department would only be aiding businesses that were 51% or more black-owned.

“We are supplying all small businesses in South Africa, across the demographic spread of our population. We will make sure there is demographic and geographic spread.”

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits