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Parties react to BBBEE requirement for COVID-19 relief for small businesses

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Tuesday told parliament’s finance committees he could not support a policy position that discriminated against white business owners.

FILE: The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance is going to court for a declaration that the government’s use of empowerment status to determine who gets relief is unlawful. Picture: pixabay.com

CAPE TOWN – Opposition parties have weighed in over government’s decision to limit COVID-19 relief for small businesses to those that meet black empowerment criteria.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Tuesday told Parliament’s finance committees he could not support a policy position that discriminated against white business owners, although he said there would always be a bias in favour of emerging black business people due to the discrimination they had endured.

His comments came as trade union Solidarity and lobby group AfriForum headed for the Constitutional Court to ask it to urgently hear their appeal against the Pretoria High Court, which recently upheld Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s position that firms should comply with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEEE) rules to benefit from the R20 million Tourism Relief Fund.

The Freedom Plus’s Fanie du Toit asked Mboweni about the issue during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I think that we need to support all enterprises black and white, as long as they are able to remain viable to support our people, to create jobs – and let’s continue to build this non-racial South Africa of ours,” Mboweni said.

Du Toit said it appeared the minister was unaware of the position ministers like those in charge of tourism and small business development had taken.

“It is shocking. Minister Tito Mboweni is the person who actually hands out the money, so he is supposed to know about what is currently going on,” he said.

The African Christian Democratic Party’s Steve Swart said relief measures shouldn’t be allocated on the basis of race.

“It is unconscionable and reprehensible for some of the ministers to indicate that business relief will be granted on [a] racial basis,” Swart said.

“So, we welcome the minister of finance’s comment and would want President Cyril Ramaphosa - who continually says we need to stand together - to give a very clear indication that no COVID-19 relief will be granted on a racial basis,” he added.

The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance is going to court for a declaration that the government’s use of empowerment status to determine who gets relief is unlawful.