July unrest and looting: DA and Gauteng Enterprise Propeller at war
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Johannesburg –The DA in Gauteng and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (Gep) have expressed conflicting reasons for the slow payout to small businesses who were victims of the July unrest in Gauteng.
The conflicting versions came after DA’s spokesperson on economic development Makashule Gana accused the provincial agency, which falls under the MEC of Economic Development, Parks Tau, of having failed to make payments to the small businesses that suffered huge losses during the unrest.
In his statement, Gana said: “It is extremely disheartening that the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (Gep) has only disbursed R2 million of the allocated R100 million of the Rebuilding Fund which is meant to assist small businesses affected by the looting and unrest in July, as well as the Covid-19 lockdown.
“Many small businesses rely on this assistance offered by the government as their stores were destroyed, to the point where they would have to fix the damage caused by the violence and looting, while also needing to procure more stock,” he said.
Gana said the small businesses would also need to find an alternate way of paying their workers as they were unable to trade during the violence, saying the longer it took for the money to be disbursed to qualifying small businesses, the sooner they may be forced to permanently close their doors, putting more strain on the economy and contributing to the rise in the Gauteng unemployment rate.
“This is of deep concern to the DA, as we cannot afford to have more people face unemployment because of the ineptness of the provincial government.
“It is becoming clearer by the day that the Gep lacks the necessary skills and expertise needed to ensure that the Rebuilding Fund does exactly what it is meant to do,” he said.
Gana said Gep should source temporary expertise from the Industrial Development Corporation to assist in disbursing the funds as quickly as possible, saying in doing so, it would ensure that small businesses could get back on their feet and start to once again contribute to the Gauteng economy.
In their reply, Gep pointed out a number of factors that caused the slow pace of processing of applications.
Gep spokesperson Mandlenkosi Ndlovu said since the launch of the fund on August 24, 1 203 applications had been received, and of these, only 47 of those processed were specifically for the rebuilding fund.
“The Gep has identified several potential causes for the lower-than-expected number of qualifying applications and approval of applications. The main contributory factor is that the Gep fund was launched after other national funds were already in process and legislation precludes businesses from applying to more than one relief fund.
“Moreover, Gep has identified staff capacity constraints in its investment unit and contact centre. Lastly, is the inability by some applicants to supply the required information and this has resulted in approval delays,” Ndlovu said.
He said Gep had in this financial year already approved over R20 million in loans, which is 72% of its budget allocation for SMME financing, and it remains committed to ensuring the same results are achieved on the Rebuilding Fund applications.
“ To this end, Gep is currently concluding the recruitment of additional investment staff to process applications and assist the clients who have struggled with providing the required information.
“Gep has also streamlined its processes to ensure a quicker response to client applications by reducing the number of approval steps. This is part of ongoing efforts by the new Gep leadership to strengthen the organisation towards becoming a more efficient organisation which is better capacitated to serve Gauteng SMMEs,” Ndlovu said.