Yesterday during a joint meeting of the Standing and Select Committees on Finance, the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, admitted that he was not aware of the fact that disaster relief is being allocated to smaller business enterprises based on racial grounds in accordance with Black Economic Empowerment provisions.
He undertook to take up the matter with the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, in whose favor the North Gauteng High Court ruled on the matter last week.
Minister Mboweni was responding to a question posed by the FF Plus about why companies, like sole proprietorships, that cannot meet the BEE requirements do not receive any disaster relief from the government and whether the Minister could say what is the forecasted loss of tax revenue that the government will likely suffer as a result.
The Minister’s surprising response was that he was not aware of the fact that smaller and medium-sized enterprises are awarded disaster relief in terms of BEE requirements.
The FF Plus finds it very hard to believe that the Minister of Finance is still unaware of the current state of affairs. This has been a burning issue for weeks now and last week marked a watershed moment in the case as North Gauteng High Court judge Jody Kollapen ruled that the allocation of disaster relief based on race is indeed constitutional and lawful.
If one of the most important ministers in the Cabinet – the Minister of Finance – is not aware of the conditions for disaster relief in this time of crisis, then one cannot help but wonder who has been making the decisions in this regard and why the Minister is not part of the decision-making process.
In his answer, Minister Mboweni said that he had a discussion with the owner of the Magoebaskloof Hotel yesterday seeing as the region relies mainly on tourism for economic survival.
The owner informed the Minister that the enterprise’s turnover is approximately R130 billion and that 95% of his employees are black.
However, the Hotel is closed because there is no income. The owner approached his insurers and banks, but without success. He was unable to obtain any disaster relief because he is white.
According to Minister Mboweni, he initially thought that the Hotel’s owner must have it all wrong and he found it hard to believe until he found out that it is indeed the case. He undertook to take up the matter with the Minister of Tourism.
Minister Mboweni told the FF Plus that he believes that the government should help all enterprises, owned by black and white people alike, to ensure that all South Africans have a job and to build a non-racial country.
“I can’t support a policy position that you would claim discriminates against, say, the owner of the Magoebaskloof Hotel because he is white,” said Minister Mboweni.
The FF Plus will follow up on the matter with Minister Mboweni and enquire about his conversation with Minister Kubayi-Ngubane.