Spaza shops, informal traders, self-employed still in the lurch on relief assistance from government

Please find attached English and isiZulu soundbites by the DA Shadow Minister of Small Business Development, Zakhele Mbhele MP.

Halfway into the national lockdown, there have still been no support measures or economic relief assistance interventions for spaza shops, informal traders and the self-employed announced by the Minister of Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, or the Department and its entities.

When President Ramaphosa announced the implementation of the national lockdown, he stated that a safety net would be developed to support persons in the informal sector, where most of the economic distress is being suffered as a result of the shutdown.

It was then promised on 31 March that the Minister would announce separate and tailor-made facilities for the informal sector, spaza shops and the self-employed on 2 April.

However, apart from a relaxation of the lockdown regulations enabling spaza shops and informal food traders to operate, nothing of this nature has come to light.

That is why yesterday I wrote to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development requesting the virtual convening of the Committee via video-conferencing in order to interact with the Minister, Acting Director-General and senior management of the Department, as there are urgent issues that require attention and interrogation by the Committee. This includes the clarification and elaboration of relief assistance for self-employed individuals (sole proprietorships) and micro-retailers, especially informal traders.

We look forward to a quick and favourable response from Chairperson Siwela to our request.

The DA understands that the Department is navigating uncharted waters during this unprecedented time and scrambling to get a grip on the situation with limited resources. That is why we had previously encouraged the Minister and the Department of Small Business Development to spearhead talks between government and business to facilitate public-private partnerships that can leverage private sector resources to contribute to efforts to increase small business resilience and protect SME and informal sector jobs during this Covid-19 pandemic and in its aftermath.

It remains imperative that social partners work together in order to face this difficult time in our country because it will take nothing less than a “whole of society” approach for all of us to get through this.