Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA
Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA

The DA says it will consult its lawyers to seek advice on the legality and of the “racialisation” of the government’s coronavirus (Covid-19) financial relief measures.

This follows an announcement by tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Tuesday that support for distressed firms and establishments in the sector will be guided by empowerment (BEE) codes, a move that could disqualify many companies from accessing government funding to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Wednesday there is a letter sent out by the department of agriculture, forestry & fisheries encouraging only black, coloured and Indian farmers to apply for assistance.

The DA has been calling on government to ditch BEE requirements in its response to the coronavirus crisis.

“It is not only unconscionable that critical financial relief in this time of distress for thousands of businesses and commercial entities is racialised, it is most likely illegal too,” Steenhuisen said.

The DA will not allow the ANC to use this crisis to further divide the nation, and will use every avenue available to fight for the right of all South Africans, black and white, to benefit from emergency assistance, the DA leader said.

“The ANC’s shambolic handling of this matter has undone much of the goodwill that existed in our nation around standing united in this challenge. When it was first revealed, via a leaked document, that race would be a deciding criteria for financial assistance, government quickly denied this and tried to backtrack from the leaked document. This was at a time when they were fundraising for this relief fund. South Africans were assured that government’s emergency financial help through this fund would be for all.”

Steenhuisen said the reality is that the skin colour of an employer does not determine the true victims of the coronavirus crisis.

“Most of these businesses and farms, which will be excluded from government assistance on the basis of race, employ an overwhelming majority of black employees. It is these people who will lose their jobs and their ability to look after their families if government gets away with its race-based relief effort.

“While we explore our legal options in this matter, we call on President Ramaphosa to do the right thing here — to reverse the decision to racialise these relief measures and to instruct his cabinet ministers to assist each and every South African who needs help in this time.”

On Tuesday, Kubayi-Ngubane said disregarding BEE requirements would be tantamount to breaking the law.

“Why [is the DA] choosing to focus on one policy [BEE] and not tax compliance for example? I am implementing government policy ... [The DA] have never supported the transformational agenda in this country,” she said.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za