Informal traders turn to govt's relief fund with hopes of saving businesses

Spaza shops and general dealers are being encouraged to take up government’s offer of funding packages intended to help claw them out of a financial black hole, but this will take a while.

FILE: The scheme is solely targeted at traditional grocery stores in villages and townships that are fully licensed and are owned by South Africans. Picture: pixabay.com

SOWETO - With COVID-19 and the lockdown having obliterated many small businesses around the country, some tuck shop owners are looking for slight relief in the government’s support scheme in the hopes of resuscitating their businesses.

Spaza shops and general dealers are being encouraged to take up government’s offer of funding packages intended to help claw them out of a financial black hole, but this will take a while.

The scheme is solely targeted at traditional grocery stores in villages and townships that are fully licensed and are owned by South Africans.

For more than 15 years, Sarah Mathe dedicated her life to her spaza shop in Dube, Soweto.

Nothing could have prepared her for the devastation brought by the coronavirus and the subsequent, abrupt lockdown in March.

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The 62-year-old mother of five who has just lost her husband was forced to join the countless number of small business owners whose livelihoods have been threatened.

“Corona has affected us and our businesses as we’ve been closed. All the stuff that I have bought is rotten. Potatoes and other vegetables. Now I don’t have money to start my business all over again.”

Mathe is pinning her hopes on the government’s spaza shops and general dealers’ scheme to jump-start her business

“And we’ll be happy about that money so that we can start our businesses all over again. I am providing for five kids with the money that I get from my business although it’s not enough. The person who was helping me, my husband passed on last month.”

But like many people who have found themselves in this predicament, Mathe is not sure how to access this relief package.

“We’ve heard about the grant that the government is providing for small businesses, but we don’t know where to register.”

Priscilla Monama from the Department of Small Business Development explained how those who qualify could access the funds: “So, you go to a bank with your ID as well as your trading permit. A trading permit can be obtained at any local municipality. You go to your local branch of Nedbank or a boxer superstore where you will be assisted with applying and registering on our database platform.”

Monama said once the paperwork was processed and approved, usually within three days, small business owners were provided with working capital as well as a credit facility amounting to R7,000 in total.

They can then buy stock from pre-selected wholesalers.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.