UASA wishes to extend our support to Honourable President Ramaphosa after addressing the nation days after implementing the 21-day lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 virus that has wreaked havoc globally.
Whilst the President has shown impressive leadership in navigating us through this crisis in unchartered territory and on short notice introducing various relief measures, the unprecedented times we find ourselves in do call for unprecedented responses.
Government has introduced amongst others numerous relief measures, including:
- Tax relief measures through treasury,
- Utilising UIF reserves as a National Disaster Fund for Employees not receiving an income,
- Setting up a Solidarity Fund with an initial seed funding of R150million into which all persons can contribute to,
- Setting up a Temporary Employee/ Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) that will see a special dispensation for companies that are in distress to pay employees and avoid retrenchment,
- Paying employees via the Compensation fund who fall ill through work exposure,
- The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.
- The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of more than R3 billion for industrial funding to address the situation of vulnerable firms and to fast-track financing for companies critical to our efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact.
- The Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.
- Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people.
At this point in time, many self-employed persons, amongst them, Independent Contractors and Freelancers are eagerly awaiting governments’ assistance to them.
Subsequent to the start of the lockdown, South Africans were hard hit with the news that the ratings agency Moody’s also downgraded South Africa to junk status, following the rating agencies Fitch and S&P, who took this decision in 2017. Moody’s cited the deterioration in SA’s fiscal strength and “structurally very weak growth” for its decision to lower the country’s rating to Ba1 from Baa3. Inevitably, this bad news translates into the country’s borrowing costs becoming a lot more expensive, probable capital outflows and further deterioration of the Rand against major currencies. Given the economic pressures that South Africa was already facing prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has added to the country’s woes.
Yesterday, 30th March 2020, we were exposed to an open letter in the media titled, “A letter from 76 economists says government can do more to limit the economic harm of Covid-19”, where Economists and business analysts implore Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet, calling for decisive action to protect workers and business, as well as the poor, from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The letter states “To date, the measures announced by the South African government, although welcome, do not match the scale of the challenge. In the face of this looming crisis, we believe more significant action is required. These interventions must protect the most vulnerable.”
The Letter further states:
“While we appreciate efforts already undertaken in each of these areas, we are concerned that they are not comprehensive enough and are not being implemented sufficiently rapidly or on a large enough scale to prevent real hardship for millions of South Africans.”
Economic interventions must therefore aim to:
- support households and communities;
- protect workers;
- sustain businesses;
- strengthen public health interventions; and
- strengthen the economy.”
The open letter ends by stating “The Presidency must reassure the most vulnerable people and businesses that they will be protected. This moment calls for all South Africans to contribute. We are willing to support in advancing these shared objectives. We would welcome the opportunity to put these proposals before yourself and the appropriate forums and provide additional technical support as needed.”
As we have never before, in our lifetime, encountered chaos and challenges of such magnitude which will leave a trail of long term negative impact, resulting in citizens confined to their homes, filled with fear and panic of an uncertain future but hope too, , UASA is confident that, together, we can build a better life for all South Africans and therefore urge government to continue to hasten to engage credible persons and institutions, whether from business, labour, society or any other sphere, from near or afar, to assist the country in decisively and successfully navigating its way out of the current COVID-19 crisis, ensuring that the most vulnerable are taken care off, as well as paving the way to recovery and prosperity for all citizens.
For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact Stanford Mazhindu at 074 978 3415