South Africa announces relief packages for citizens, businesses affected by riots

South Africa announces relief packages for citizens, businesses affected by riots
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Johannesburg: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced relief plans for citizens, small and medium enterprises that were affected by the week-long looting and violence following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma on July 7.

Speaking in a nationwide broadcast on Sunday evening, Ramaphosa said the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were "hit by deliberate, planned and coordinated acts of violence designed to create the conditions for unrest."

He said more than 300 lives were lost and the country's economy had been disrupted by the looting of shops, warehouses and factories, and damage to critical infrastructure.

The protests started after the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, but rapidly devolved into unprecedented, massive looting and arson across the country.

Zuma started a 15-month sentence after the country's apex Constitutional Court found him guilty of 'contempt of court' because he refused to return to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, where he has been repeatedly accused of involvement in corruption by witnesses.

We are taking decisive action now to secure the livelihoods of millions of people that have been threatened by both the pandemic and the unrest. To support those who have no means of supporting themselves, we are reinstating the Social Relief of Distress Grant to provide a monthly payment of 350 rand until the end of March 2022," Ramaphosa said.

The president said this relief had been made possible by an improvement in revenue collection by the government.

Unemployed caregivers who currently receive a Child Support Grant will also be eligible for this new grant.

Ramaphosa said the government will also contribute 400 million rand to the Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund which had been established during the total lockdown last year by the Solidarity Fund to supplement the food relief being provided by the Department of Social Development.

Businesses would also be assisted through various measures, he said.

"The most immediate need is to ensure that those businesses that were damaged or looted are able to rebuild and reopen as quickly as possible.

"We are one of the few countries in the world to have a state-owned insurance company, SASRIA, which provides cover against incidents of public violence, strikes, riots and unrest.

"Businesses that are insured will be covered by SASRIA, (which) has committed to expedite the payment of all valid claims, and is working together with private insurers to ensure that assessments are completed without delay," Ramaphosa said, confirming that his government would ensure that SASRIA is able to honour all of its obligations and will provide whatever support is necessary in this regard.

He also reassured victims of the violence who might not have been insured, including many small and medium-sized businesses, both formal and informal, that they would not be excluded in relief plans.

"Many of these businesses have lost everything, and will not be able to rebuild on their own. We will not abandon them in their time of need. We are therefore working to extend support to uninsured businesses that were affected by the violence.

"Government will set aside dedicated funds for this purpose and we will soon announce a mechanism for these businesses to apply for support. We will also be re-prioritising funding for SMMEs affected by the pandemic through a once-off business survival funding mechanism," Ramaphosa said.

He also announced a range of tax relief measures, including deferment of some taxes, to encourage increased new employment and retention of existing employees.

"These interventions are designed to extend as much relief as possible to individuals and businesses that are in need of support, without compromising our fiscal sustainability.

"No country can expect its economy to grow, or to live in peace and harmony, while many of its citizens remain marginalised, hungry and excluded," Ramaphosa said.