The Free State Black Business Chamber says it is pleased that the government has prioritised key interventions towards the revival of small businesses in the province.
Treasury in the Free State has established the Provincial COVID-19 Relief Task Team to assist small businesses, which are mostly in the townships and rural areas. The team is made up of economic cluster departments, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Chambers of Commerce.
Through the intervention, formal and informal businesses in the Free State, have been given a lifeline of more than R70 million. Part of the plan includes investing more than R13 billion in infrastructure development in the next three years. The envisage investment is intended to support the Presidential Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. Small and emerging enterprises are expected to get a lion’s share in the multimillion-rand capital projects.
Government says it has noted the role played by emerging enterprises towards job creation. The unemployment rate in the Free State stands at 33.4%. The working age population in the province stands at almost two million, of which 374 000 people are jobless.
The prevailing situation concerns many residents.
“Yes we have to go back to the drawing board and see what we did that was wrong we have learnt from our mistakes manufacturing should be our number one we have firms all over. You go to Botshabelo, Qwaqwa firms are rotting away because nobody is working there,” says a resident.
“If the government can open industries many people can get employment. Our children are graduating at universities but they don’t get employment so if government can reopen firms job creation will be successful,” says another resident.
Some of the entrepreneurs are yet to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They battled to keep up with their rentals, resulting in the landlords threatening them with evictions.
Hairdresser, Mamiki Motshwene, says they are still counting their losses.
“The economy has dropped a lot because even if check on my books because I normally record with my bank statement the business is so bad. I can’t make R1 000 per month to save it, except to pay the rent, my bills, school fees. Even a simple funeral policy you struggle to pay it. Sometimes you skip a payment. Even now I’m at credit bureau because I can’t pay. Because I’m working from hand to mouth,” says Motshwene.
Free State businesses facing bleak future:
Political parties weigh in
Free State DA leader, Roy Jankielsohn, has some reservations.
“The government is budgeting funds for support but we are very concern that we don’t see transparency in the allocation of funds and also we don’t know the criteria in allocating these funds to SMMEs. What government needs to do is to create an enabling environment in which small businesses can thrive and big companies can come and invest in the Free State and create jobs for our people in the province that environment depends on basic service delivery and sound roads infrastructure,” says Jankielsohn.
Free State EFF chairperson, Mandisa Makesini, is equally concerned.
“Those people who are running those businesses are you people who are trying to fit in the business sector because now because of COVID 19 they are affected in if you cut more budget we say let them go back to join the unemployed. They started a good initiative to start and prepare themselves to contest the economy but they are now affected we are still going to engage more with the department as we said earlier all relevant departments need to come up with intervention how we revive the economy in the province,” says Makesini.
Free State ANC Deputy Chairperson, William Bulwane, insists there’s some hope.
“Looking into the possibilities of ensuring that we revitalise the township economy and make sure everybody benefits particularly young people, women and people with disability including the agriculture because if you read Stats SA, the final report they released they have talked about one of the stable economy we can use is Agriculture because it doesn’t need skilled labourers,” says Bulwane.
The chief executive officer of the Free State Chamber of Black Business, Lucky Motsamai, is hopeful that the allocation on small businesses will help revive the sector. The Free State Treasury has allocated almost R2 billion to the small businesses department for the next three years. Motsamai says the financial injection is a welcome relief.
“The allocation to the department gives us hope because we hope that the department can actually assist small to medium black-owned enterprises with incentives to help them cover debts owed to the landlords and also production and development that cash flow we didn’t have,” says Motsamai.
Free State Treasury head, Godfrey Mahlatsi, adds that small businesses are essential.
“Economic activity would not only be stimulated through the funding that we supporting small businesses we have got infrastructure roll-out plan we are putting aside R2.8 billion just for roads it’s a huge investment we have investment of R1 billion in the Department of Human Settlements for building of houses and as well as building infrastructure,” says Mahlatsi.
The Free State Treasury has said the provincial economy is projected to recover and grow by 2.8% this year. The provincial economy has contracted by 6.8%.
Discussion on government’s support for small businesses: