Small and historically disadvantaged businesses in the rural town of South Africa have all reasons to smile after the Treasury in the Free State established the Provincial COVID-19 Relief Task Team to assist in assessing the challenging business environment that was widely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Free State Black Business Chamber [FSBBC] was launched by the Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA] with an aim of ensuring among other things, the realization of a unified representative voice of black business in the Free State Province
The move by Treasury was well received by the Free State Black Business Chamber acknowledging of the good will saying that it was pleased that the government prioritized key interventions towards the revival of small businesses in the province.
The team that was established by the Treasury in the Free State to offer assistance of the Provincial COVID-19 Relief to small businesses, in the rural towns and disadvantaged groups comprises of the economic cluster departments, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Chambers of Commerce.
Through this financial Provincial plan the formal and informal businesses in the Free State, have been given a lifeline of more than R70 million. In which one of the plan is to have an investment of more than R13 billion in infrastructure development in the next three years.
The envisage investment is intended to support the Presidential Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. Small and emerging enterprises are expected to get a lion’s share in the multimillion-rand capital projects.
This is part of South African Government plan of building its Economy that would go a long way in creating employment after the Government noted the role played by the emerging enterprises.
Presently the unemployment rate in the Free State Province stands at 33.4% with the working age population in the province standing at almost two million, of which 374 000 people are jobless.
Entrepreneurs in the Free State Province are yet to recover from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic which stagnated a lot of businesses with some still battling to pay Rent resulting to landlords threats to kick them out.
POLITICAL PARTIES WEIGH IN
Mr Roy Jankielsohn the DA Leader in the Provincial Legislature and the Caucus Leader and also representative of the DA in the committees of Agriculture & Rural Development is of the contrary opinion that the budgeting of funds for supporting the SMMEs will not be well accounted for by the Government even as he questions the transparency in the allocation.
“What government needs to do is to create an enabling environment in which small businesses can thrive and big companies can come and invest in the Free State and create jobs for our people in the province that environment depends on basic service delivery and sound roads infrastructure,” says Jankielsohn.
The Free State EFF chairperson, Mandisa Makesini, on his part says;
“Those people who are running those businesses are you people who are trying to fit in the business sector because now because of COVID 19 they are affected in if you cut more budget we say let them go back to join the unemployed. They started a good initiative to start and prepare themselves to contest the economy but they are now affected we are still going to engage more with the department as we said earlier all relevant departments need to come up with intervention how we revive the economy in the province,” says Makesini.
William Bulwane, The ANC Deputy Chairperson of the Free State insists there’s hope in reviving the economy post Covid-19 looking into the possibilities of ensuring that the Government revitalises the township economy by making sure everyone benefits particularly young people, women and people with disability including the agriculture.
The ANC Deputy Chairperson argues that the South Africa stats final report released talked about Agriculture as one of the best economy growers to a stable economy.
The chief executive officer of the Free State Chamber of Black Business, Lucky Motsamai, is hopeful that the allocation on small businesses will help revive the sector. The Free State Treasury has allocated almost R2 billion to the small businesses department for the next three years. Motsamai says the financial injection is a welcome relief.
“The allocation to the department gives us hope because we hope that the department can actually assist small to medium black-owned enterprises with incentives to help them cover debts owed to the landlords and also production and development that cash flow we didn’t have,” says Motsamai.
Godfrey Mahlatsi the Treasury head of Free State says that Economic activity would not only be stimulated through the funding of supporting small businesses, but also through the infrastructure roll-out plan put aside an allocation of R2.8 billion just for roads which is a huge investment, the investment of R1 billion in the Department of Human Settlements for building of houses and as well as building infrastructure.
The Free State Treasury has said the provincial economy is projected to recover and grow by 2.8% this year. The provincial economy has contracted by 6.8%.