This issue caused mass panic in the business community across South Africa due to a leaked document from the department, said DA MP Dean Macpherson.
Although the department has now claimed that any reports of a 51% black-owned requirement were nothing but fake news, the truth was more complex, as the proposal appeared to have been mooted by government officials, though was presumably not adopted.
Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said at Tuesday’s interministerial briefing that the alarm about the black economic empowerment requirement for small to medium businesses to receive support and funding was “fake news”, adding that all businesses would be considered, though demographic and provincial factors would play a role.
Minister Ntshavheni says "demographic spread that is representative" must be applied wrt applications of small businesses & entrepreneurs for economic relief. Does this mean 80-9-9-2 applies? Does the demographic spread of the whole SA apply to determine who qualifies for relief?
— Alida Kok (@alida_kok) March 24, 2020
The authenticity of the document has presumably, however, been confirmed by those looking into its metadata.
For those saying that SMME presentation is fake news…
— Alt-Anton (@antonnies) March 24, 2020
Macpherson further alleged on Tuesday that it appeared government had actually backed down from the idea, as shown by correspondence with the department online.
“This is why the DA wrote to Minister Patel on 20 March 2019 to encourage him to put a moratorium on BEE requirements linked to funding and incentives because it would effectively miss 93% of all businesses who are BEE exempt and do not require black ownership,” said Macpherson.
“The DA is absolutely clear that funding must go to businesses who need it and who will keep people employed, regardless of the race, sex or geographical location of the business. The stakes are too high to be playing ‘battleships’ political ideology when so many jobs depend on quick and easy access to funding.”
The DA called for the website to the funding application to urgently be urgently taken down as it contained questions around race and sex which were “not relevant to the funding application and only serve to sow distrust and confusion”.
“It is quite clear that as we move closer to the national lockdown, government’s communication needs to step up a gear and dismiss fake news as it spreads but equally needs to rein in rogue officials who are putting mad suggestions like this forward in the first instance.”