Home South African Mboweni calls for Covid-19 support for companies across race lines

Mboweni calls for Covid-19 support for companies across race lines

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Minister ‘challenges’ decision to use B-BBEE as a criteria for allocating relief from the government’s small, medium and macro enterprises debt relief fund

FINANCE Minister Tito Mboweni on Tuesday said companies affected by the Covid-19 crisis should receive support regardless of the race of their owners and hinted he was challenging Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on the matter.

“Race is a very vexing question,” Mboweni told a meeting of Parliament’s standing and select committees on finance.

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

Mboweni used the Magoebaskloof Hotel outside Polokwane in Limpopo province to illustrate his point. The minister, who is from the region, noted that while the owner of the hotel was white, almost all his workers were black, and he could not countenance a situation where the establishment was denied government support.

The minister said the hotel remained closed as a result of a Covid-19 lockdown, and the owner had told him he was not getting support from his insurance company or the banking sector. He also believed the government would not offer him emergency support either as he was white.

Mboweni said he had tried to correct the hotel owner on the last assertion, telling him: “I think you are wrong there.”

The hotel owner however insisted he was correct, urging Mboweni to speak to the Minister of Tourism.

“So I am having a conversation with the Minister of Tourism,” Mboweni said on Tuesday. “I can’t support a policy position that you would claim discriminates against, say, the owner of the Magoebaskloof Hotel because he is white.

“No, we pull together, we work together. Yes, there will always be a bias towards emerging black business people because they were discriminated against for a long time but let’s pull together and build a South Africa of our dreams, non-racial, democratic and prosperous,” Mboweni added.

Kubayi-Ngubane’s department was taken to court by Afrikaner pressure group AfriForum and trade union Solidarity for stipulating that for businesses to qualify for help from a R200 million Covid-19 relief fund, they should meet the country’s broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) ownership criteria.

The Pretoria High Court ruled in favour of the department, but AfriForum plans to appeal.

The DA has launched a broader court application challenging the use of B-BBEE status, race, gender, age or disability in relation to economic or other forms of relief during the Covid-19 crisis.

The move was sparked by Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s decision to use B-BBEE as a criteria for allocating relief from the government’s small, medium and macro enterprises debt relief fund.

The DA said its case was different because it was not directed against a single ministry but against “race discrimination across each and every sector of our economy during a national state of disaster”.

In reply to questions from members of parliament on Tuesday, Mboweni said he was eager for lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 to be scaled down, but added that the need to restart the economy more fully should be balanced with that of protecting people from getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

– African News Agency (ANA)