Computer. Picture: SUPPLIED
Computer. Picture: SUPPLIED

The government’s plans to set up a portal allowing essential services businesses to apply to trade during the lockdown have been embroiled in chaos, with the website was still down on Thursday morning.   

On Wednesday trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel announced that all businesses that will be allowed to provide essential services are required to seek approval from the department.

Such businesses are required to apply to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) bizportal website at www.bizportal.gov.za and obtain a certificate from the commission that allows them to continue trading. The Bizportal website will contain a menu icon listed as “essential service businesses” through which an application can be made to the CIPC.

The department has said the service would be available at the start of business trading hours on Thursday. However, the site was still unavailable by 10am, leaving many businesses uncertain as to whether they will be allowed to operate on Friday when the lockdown comes into force.

DA MP Dean Macpherson said sources within the CIPC had advised him that they were given limited notice and there was no consultation with them up until Wednesday.

“They have been scrambling through the night to get the site up, to their credit. It is unthinkable and unacceptable that this is all being done on the day of the lockdown which probably means the website will not be able to handle the flood of applications,” Macpherson said.

He said throughout the process leading to the lockdown, Patel and department of trade & industry have sent out mixed messages on important issues.

“[They] have not responded to a single written piece of communication from my office relating to critical issues and functions for companies in the lockdown. It speaks to the utter chaos being experienced by companies as government ministers and departments continue to display their full inefficiency.”

The department of trade & industry was yet to respond to questions on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, the department said the application on the bizportal will be a simple declaration requiring minimal registration details, type of business/trade involved in, what trading name, if any, is used and whether it meets the requirements contained in the essential services list, the contact details of the person applying as well as the number of employees that will be working during the lockdown period.

The CIPC registry will then pre-populate the remaining company information and e-mail a certificate stating that the business is allowed to remain trading.

“The certificate can then be used as evidence to authorities [proving] ... that indeed the business has been given government permission to trade and that its employees are able to have unrestricted movement only in the course of that trade,” the department said.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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