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Billionaire Johann Rupert who inherited a fortune, but to his credit, then greatly expanded it through the global luxury goods group Richemont has been the victim of smear campaigns and fake news, in particular in the Jacob Zuma era when Bell Pottinger, a UK PR outfit, deliberately developed a campaign to demonise him. Bell Pottinger was on the payroll of the Gupta brothers, who were at the centre of the state capture scandal. But Rupert has consistently been supportive of South Africa – and South Africans. This is why Richemont has remained listed in South Africa and why he pays tax in South Africa, unlike many other wealthy South Africans who dodge contributing to state coffers by living as tax exiles. And Rupert has been extraordinarily generous with his wealth. For example, he and his wife, Gaynor, have helped give property equity to thousands of township residents. This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that Rupert has dug deep to help South African business owners as the coronavirus pandemic cuts off cashflow to the economy. Rupert’s gesture stands out, not only in South Africa but in the world – with other wealthy leaders and business entrepreneurs asking for government hand-outs for their corporations rather than giving them. – Jackie Cameron
Our money will be available to all South African businesses – Johann Rupert
(My Broadband) – Billionaire Johann Rupert said his R1bn assistance will be available to all small businesses and their employees, and not only black-owned businesses.
On Monday 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days which will begin from midnight on Thursday 26 March.
This will have a devastating effect on the South African economy and businesses, with some economists predicting massive job losses.
To limit the economic impact of the shutdown on the economy, Ramaphosa said the government will be spending money to save lives and to support the economy.
“Government is providing seed capital of R150 million and the private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial contributions in the coming period,” he said.
All South Africans will benefit from Rupert’s money
Shortly after this announcement, screenshots of a document started to circulate on social media which suggested that only black-owned businesses will qualify for financial assistance.
The document stated that for an SMME to qualify for relief, it “must be 51% black-owned”.
The Department of Small Business Development highlighted this was a draft document from a week ago and was still under revision.
“It was not meant to be shared with the public,” the department said on Twitter.
It is therefore not clear whether the same qualifying criteria will hold in the final version of the SMME relief funding document.
The government’s SMME website where small and medium-sized businesses can apply for funding also clearly asks for the gender and race of their shareholders.
It also asks applicants about the gender and race breakdown of their employees, which are typically associated with BEE requirements.
When Rupert was asked about the alleged “black-owned-only” assistance his response was clear – “Our assistance will be available to ALL South African businesses”.
It must be noted that Rupert’s donation is part of the Solidarity fund, which is separate from the government’s SMME relief fund.
To qualify for access to the SMME fund, businesses will be required to register on the SMME South Africa platform here.
MyBroadband contacted the Department of Small Business Development for more information about the issue, and a spokesperson said more details will be shared at a briefing today.
The screenshots below detail the online debate around the business assistance funding.
Screenshot of alleged SMME funding criteria (draft document from a week ago)
Government’s SMME funding applications
Johann Rupert’s Twitter comment
Department of Small Business Development statement
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