By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
President Cyril Ramaphosa says that government will introduce a number of support measures to businesses in South Africa as they continue to be impacted by the country’s adjusted level 4 lockdown.
Writing in his weekly letter to the nation, Ramaphosa acknowledged that the last 15 months of restrictions has taken an unprecedented toll on businesses, owners and staff.
"For many business owners, seeing a business that you grew from scratch struggling to survive, or even being forced to close its doors, is heartbreaking.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this has sadly been the situation facing many businesses both large and small, not just in our country but around the world.
"Many have had to reduce the working hours of their staff or even retrench them."
Ramaphosa said that the Covid Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), the Covid-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme and various other mechanisms helped to soften this blow, with some recovery now being seen.
"There are promising indications that our economy is steadily recovering, with growth and job creation in a number of sectors, from manufacturing to mining to agriculture.
At the same time, we know that this ‘bigger picture’ is cold comfort to workers and business owners who have suffered immeasurably over the past year and a half, and were hoping to see their situations improve in as the economy slowly opened up."
As the government did during the start of the pandemic, Ramaphosa said he has engaged with ocial partners, business, labour and civil society to see what financially sustainable measures could be introduced to support businesses and individuals in distress at this time.
The negotiations at Nedlac have resulted in consensus that the most practical and financially sustainable measure that can provide urgent relief is extending the Covid-19 TERS scheme to sectors that are affected by the adjusted level 4 restrictions, he said.
"We will soon publish the details of this extension, including details on who is eligible.
"To support businesses whose operating licenses and permits expired between March 2020 and June 2021, we are extending their validity until 31 December 2022. In addition, new business licenses or permits that are issued from the 1 July will also be valid until 31 December 2022, and no license fee will be payable."
Ramaphosa added that certain businesses that were initially not allowed to operate under the adjusted level 4 regulations will be permitted to reopen under strict health conditions.
This will bring great relief to not just business owners but workers, especially in industries such as hospitality, he said.