Fear and uncertainty are a breeding ground for people with sinister motives to warp the truth and distribute fake news. After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would be going into a three-week lockdown, such vitriol was shared at an alarming rate.
One of the bits of “news” that found its way onto the mobile devices of millions of South Africans, was an alleged government document that listed the necessary criteria for obtaining an SMME relief fund grant.
Fake SMME criteria circulated
The image circulated widely on social media suggests that in order to obtain a grant, a business needs to prove that they are 51% black-owned.
However, Department of Small Business Development spokesperson Sarah Mokwebo confirmed to The Citizen on Tuesday morning that this was indeed fake information.
Replying to a complaint on Twitter, the department did however concede that it was a draft document that was not intended for public distribution.
“Please note that this was a draft document of more than a week ago in the department and was still under revision. It was not meant to be shared with the public.”
Last week, prior to Ramaphosa’s landmark announcement, the Department of Small Business Development said that it was working on a fund to alleviate debt burdens and financial despair for small to large businesses.
“The Debt Relief Fund is aimed at providing relief on existing debts and repayments to assist SMMEs during the period of the COVID-19 state of disaster,” it said.
The fund is aimed at providing relief on existing debts and repayments, said Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
“For SMMEs to be eligible for assistance under the debt relief fund, the applicant must demonstrate the direct link of the impact or the potential impact of COVID-19 on business operations.”
“This facility will also assist entities to acquire raw material, pay labour and operational costs. All these interventions will be structured to match the patterns of the SMMEs cash flows, as well as the extent of the impact suffered.”
The fund went live on Tuesday morning 24 March.
Some of the actual requirements required by the form to apply, include:
- Annual turnover;
- Shareholders (including current BEE standing);
- Number of employees;
- Employee demographics; and
AfriForum reacts to fake news
Civil rights organisation AfriForum were quick to take the bait though, writing that the government was using the pandemic to reward discrimination against minorities.
“AfriForum condemns the government’s policy of providing financial relief only to black-owned businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. AfriForum already demanded in a letter of letter to the Department of Small Business last night that a criterion of the emergency financing package for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) should be set aside.
“This criterion states that only black-owned businesses qualify for financial aid. The emergency financing package was delivered last night by President Cyril Ramaphosa announced at a media conference on the government’s action plans to manage the COVID-19 crisis.”
AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel was incensed by the news. Perhaps he too should do a bit of fact-checking before going off the handle.
According to Kriel, the government’s attempt to abuse a pandemic to reward discrimination against minorities is racist and immoral.
“The government’s continued attack on white people and businesses in the country in these uncertain times is unacceptable.
“The president repeatedly emphasises in his speeches that everyone in the country must stand together to fight the virus. Now the ANC government wants to abuse the virus to fight against white people. AfriForum will oppose this racist policy completely.”