Where is the Covid-19 money, Mr President?

SALTA Quarterly Column

It has been ten months since the declaration of a national state of disaster by the president. A lot has happened since then.

South Africa announced its first case of Covid-19 on 5 March 2020. Government introduced strict lockdown regulations that were aimed at battling the spread of the coronavirus. Restrictions were imposed on businesses and citizens too.

The impact of Covid-19 on the South African society in the social, economic, health and environmental realms has been dire. Most businesses were required to close, the sale of alcohol and cigarettes was banned, the government’s township economic development strategy came to a screeching halt.

How long must we be treated as second-class citizens in our own country?

Many families lost their loved ones as the effects of the pandemic continued to rage on unabated.

Salta was also not spared of the pain when our president, Mish Hlophe passed on. May his soul rest in peace.

This has resulted in the reshuffling of the Salta leadership. At a special Salta provincial executive council (PEC) meeting on 6 October 2020, an interim committee was nominated.

Philemon Mojela was nominated acting president and I, Abe Radebe, his deputy. Mase Ntlotsoeu is the secretary, Mxolisi Duma the new treasurer, and Lazarus Moimane a member of the committee.

Lockdown regulations have had dire financial consequences for most businesses.

Salta was immensely affected as members were unable to renew their affiliation fees. It was resolved to intensify fund-raising programmes.

Various financial relief and support measures introduced by government in order to mitigate against financial ruin of small businesses, were applied selectively and never extended to the township liquor/tavern industry as had been hoped for throughout the lockdown period to date! This was in spite of a direct appeal from township liquor traders to the president on 16 of July 2020.

Senzeni na?

On 15 October at a joint sitting of parliament, the president presented the government’s post Covid-19 economic recovery plan. This has included:

  • aggressive job creation via aggressive infrastructure development,
  • accelerating economic reforms to unlock investment and growth,
  • fighting crime and corruption,
  • improving the capacity of the state,
  • re-industrialisation of the economy, with a focus on growing small businesses.

We liquor traders are still struggling with huge losses and financial challenges accumulated over the past seven months. Most of us have not yet recovered and some outlets have had to close their doors! We thus are still in need of the special Covid-19 relief measures that were promised to small businesses but applied selectively. This will be an honourable thing for the president and government to do. It will also be an urgent necessary first step towards accommodating us in the proposed post Covid-19 economic recovery plan.

Having said that, we still don’t understand why the government is dragging its feet in removing the red tape involved when we apply for licenses. Liquor traders met the liquor board, the DED and the office of the Gauteng Premier on 6 April 2000. We were promised that this issue would be resolved.

A meeting that was to be held on 17 April was cancelled due to Covid-19. The government has been reminded. We are still waiting.

How long must we be treated as second-class citizens in our own country? Apparently there is selective allocation of certain liquor brands to traders – “apartheid” if you will.  Why maar?

By Abe Radebe, PEC member, SALTA