Nicky Oppenheimer. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Nicky Oppenheimer. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

The Oppenheimer family have established a new trust, the SA Future Trust (SAFT), to disburse the family’s R1bn donation with the purpose of extending a financial lifeline to employees of small, medium-sized and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

The intention of the trust, which is expected to be operational on Friday, “is to create a structure that will extend direct financial support to SMME employees who are at risk of losing their jobs or will suffer a loss of income because of Covid-19,” the family said in a statement released on Tuesday morning.

“While coronavirus has separated us physically, it has united us in our shared humanity and identity as South Africans. We have faith in our collective ability to overcome this challenge and emerge stronger than before,” said Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer.

The purpose of SAFT will be to disburse funds by way of interest-free loans to employees of participating SMMEs over a five-year term, allowing businesses who are suffering from short-term cash-flow constraints to continue operations while retaining their employees.

Effectively, the SMMEs will apply to the banks for loans and the loans will be used to pay eligible employees’ salaries. The employees themselves will carry no liability and will not have to pay back the money.

The trust has partnered with the country’s four largest commercial banks (Absa, FirstRand, Nedbank and Standard Bank).

The trust expects the typical loan amount per eligible employee to work out to R750 per week for a period of 15 weeks.

The banks will waive their normal fees in relation to managing the scheme during the period of the national disaster. SMMEs will be able to begin applying for funding from Friday April 3.

SMMEs are encouraged to apply through their existing banks, the trust intends to include more banks as things progress and plans to carry on operating long after the crisis has passed.

“SAFT will have an ongoing role in accelerating economic growth within SA. Any further donations, and loans repaid, to SAFT will remain within this non-profit structure. They will be used to support initiatives with a focus on employment creation.”

The trust has been structured as a public benefit organisation and can therefore accept donations from third parties.

In addition, the Oppenheimer family, through its philanthropic arm is considering proposals for emergency grants in a number of areas to “enhance national interventions around response, recovery and critical assistance initiatives”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the contributions of R1bn each from the Rupert and Oppenheimer families when announcing the lockdown last Monday evening.

The Rupert family will use specialist small business lender, Business Partners, which Johann Rupert founded in 1981, as the primary means of assisting small businesses.

The Motsepe Family-led contribution of R1bn announced on Saturday will initially focus on treating and preventing the spread of the disease in poor and rural populations through the provision of protective equipment, medical supplies and water.

thompsonw@businesslive.co.za