The Zululand District Municipality has officially launched a SMME relief fund for the district at KwaNongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The fund is aimed at helping local small businesses that were affected by COVID-19. More than 60 SMMEs are expected to benefit from the R5 million that has been secured for the fund.

Fezile Ngcobo is an executive member of Eyabathembu Farming based in KwaNongoma. They breed pigs and supply to abattoirs and local butcheries. She says they had to slaughter their stock to survive after the outbreak of COVID-19 and have not yet bred enough pigs to supply abattoirs again.

“I won’t lie it has been a challenging journey and by the time when we were about to supply the pigs to the abattoirs, the COVID-19 hit.  And we had to come up with the new strategy as to how are we going to keep the business afloat. We decided to slaughter the pigs and sell them to locals and that has kept our business running smoothly.”

Another local business Maphophoma Milling employs more than 5 people. The company couldn’t pay salaries, electricity and water bills due to the lockdown. Company director Sipho Nyembe says the business is still struggling financially.

“We had programme with COVID and as we speak we are broke and we don’t have money right now and it’s is not easy to work. At this stage we owe workers and we couldn’t pay electricity bills and salaries. Even some directors of the company are reluctant to come to work. The number of customers has decreased and we are facing with a big problem,” explains Nyembe.

As part of its economic recovery plan, the Zululand District municipality has launched a relief fund for local SMME’s. Currently, more than 60 small businesses will benefit from the fund this year.

District Mayor, Thulasizwe Buthelezi, says the fund is part of the municipality’s intervention to ensure that small businesses continue to operate.

“Some of them will be buying fences, some will be buying seeds in effort to revive the ailing businesses and economy of Zululand.  We are happy today as 60 businesses will benefit from the programme which will use the amount of R5 million in total.  Some of them have been here for a long time and sustainable and they are impacting on the economy of ZDM. We selected them and we are confident that the businesses that we are selected today will carry on with good work prior to COVID-19,” he says.

Buthelezi further says the municipality has set up a technical unit to empower businesses in the district.

Zululand resident Nkululeko Mthethwa has welcomed the initiative. He encourages young people to get formal education.

“The municipality is catering the needs of the youth and we hope that it will reach all corners of the district, but it must focus mainly on formal education to the youth. The municipality has good programmes for the youth but if they lack education, nothing they can do,” adds Mthethwa.

The move is part of national government’s efforts to rebuild the country’s economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces government’s plan in the video below: