Billionaire Johann Rupert’s R1 billion COVID-19 Sukuma Relief Programme has been oversubscribed by almost three times in just three days.
Business Partners, which is administering the Programme, said in a statement on Monday evening that the value of applications from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had exceeded R2.8 billion.
Business Partners’ managing director Ben Bierman said, “This exceeds the available donated capital of R1 billion almost three times over. As such, we have decided to suspend access to the application portal with immediate effect.”
More than 10,000 applications
Rupert donated the money to help SMEs overcome the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business Partners is administering the donation in the form of grants and loans.
Biernan added, “Just three days after the online portal was opened for applications, the Programme has already received in excess of 10,000 applications from formal sole proprietors, close corporations, companies and trusts.
“We will now be using the next seven days to assess the applications received and provide feedback to the applicants.
“Should we thereafter find that there is still capital available, either because some of the applicants were not verified and approved, or because we have managed to secure additional capital, we will then open the Programme for applications again.”
Call for more donations
Biernan said the oversubscription is an indication of the significant impact of COVID-19’s disruptions on SMMEs around the country.
He therefore appealed to big businesses and corporations to contribute more funding to the Programme.
Besides the Programme, SMEs could also approach the SA Future Trust, which the billionaire Oppenheimer family established to administer their R1 billion donation.
The Department of Small Business Development also established a R500m SMME Support Intervention, which consists of a Business Growth/Resilience Facility and a Debt Relief Fund.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane also announced recently that R200 million had been set aside for SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector.
COVID-19 disruptions, including the lockdown and travel bans, are expected to have a severe impact on the economy.
On Monday, the SA Reserve Bank said the economy could contract by up to 4% in 2020. It also said job losses as a result of COVID-19 could exceed 370,000.