AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
SOUTH Africa has announced several measures aimed at assisting South Africans who have hit economic times because of COVID-19, the recent violence and looting.
SA President Cyril Ramaphosa has also announced tax relief measures, expedited insurance claims for insured businesses as well as assistance for uninsured businesses that were left destitute after the looting.
In a special address to the nation, Ramaphosa announced the reinstatement of the Social Relief of Distress grant until March 2022, to help desperate nationals. He said caregivers who receive a Child Support Grant are now eligible for his grant.
“We are taking decisive action now to secure the livelihoods of millions of people that have been threatened by both the pandemic and the unrest. We are announcing a range of measures to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who are vulnerable as a result of the measures that we had to impose to deal with COVID-19. To support those who have no means of supporting themselves, we are reinstating the Social Relief of Distress Grant to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022. This has been made possible by the slight improvement we have seen in our revenue collection. We are expanding the number of people who are eligible for this grant by allowing unemployed caregivers who currently receive a Child Support Grant to apply. Details on the reinstatement of the grant, including the process for application, will be announced shortly,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said in addition to the food relief provided by the Department of Social Development, the government was also contributing R400 million to the Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund established by the Solidarity Fund to assist with the immediate needs of affected communities. “We are also implementing measures to help businesses to rebuild. The most immediate need is to ensure that those businesses that were damaged or looted are able to rebuild and reopen as quickly as possible,” he added.
We are one of the few countries in the world to have a state-owned insurance company, SASRIA, which provides cover against incidents of public violence, strikes, riots and unrest.
Businesses that are insured will be covered by SASRIA.
He announced that the state-owned insurance company, SASRIA, has committed to expedite the payment of all valid claims, and is working together with private insurers to ensure that assessments are completed without delay. He said the government would ensure that SASRIA honoured all of its obligations and will provide whatever support is necessary in this regard.
“In addition, however, some businesses that were victims of this violence may not have been insured. This includes many small and medium-sized businesses, whether formal or informal. Many of these businesses have lost everything, and will not be able to rebuild on their own. We will not abandon them in their time of need.
“We are therefore working to extend support to uninsured businesses that were affected by the violence. Government will set aside dedicated funds for this purpose and we will soon announce a mechanism for these businesses to apply for support. We will also be reprioritising funding for SMMEs affected by the pandemic through a once-off business survival funding mechanism. We are also working with large businesses to determine their contribution to the support of SMMEs, job creation and eradication of hunger and poverty.
“Two weeks ago, we announced that the COVID-19 TERS scheme would be extended for those sectors which were affected by Alert Level 4 restrictions during the past 28 days. Applications for this period are open, and the UIF will facilitate payments as quickly as possible to support workers who have not received an income. Most importantly, the UIF will provide income support to all those employees who have lost jobs as a result of the recent unrest. This will ensure that jobs are protected and that workers can continue to earn an income as those businesses take time to rebuild.
Ramaphosa also announced tax relief for businesses and the expansion of the Employment Tax Incentive for four months to employees earning below R6 500 and to increase the incentive amount by up to R750 per month.
He said the incentive would encourage employers to hire and retain employees, especially those in the retail and hospitality sectors which have been worst affected.
“We will also defer payment of PAYE taxes for a period of three months to provide businesses with additional cash flow, with an automatic deferral of 35 percent of PAYE liabilities for employers with revenue below R100 million. The payment of excise taxes by the alcohol sector will be deferred for a period of three months, to ease the burden on the sector as it recovers.
“These interventions are designed to extend as much relief as possible to individuals and businesses that are in need of support, without compromising our fiscal sustainability. No country can expect its economy to grow, or to live in peace and harmony, while many of its citizens remain marginalised, hungry and excluded. The impact of recent events on our economy has made the implementation of our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan even more important. We have been working closely with our social partners on the further measures we will take to address poverty, accelerate the implementation of reforms, drive inclusive growth and create jobs.
We will shortly be able to make further announcements in this regard.”
The president also revealed that in addition to the economic measures, SA has also taken steps to strengthen the capacity and preparedness of the security forces to prevent similar incidents in future.
He said these included responding more quickly and decisively to reports that the government has received of extortion by criminal groups as businesses start to rebuild, especially in KwaZulu-Natal.
Ramaphosa warned that anyone who threatened or engaged in violence would face consequences.
“While we have acknowledged that our response was too slow, our security forces have demonstrated that they are able to ensure stability and order. More importantly, South Africans have demonstrated to the world that we are committed to democratic government, that we oppose violence and criminality, and that we will stand up to anyone who seeks to destabilise our country.”