Informal trader in Alexander. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Informal trader in Alexander. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The select committee on economic and small business development has called for the registration of informal traders to be eligible for the Covid-19 benefits announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The coronavirus regulations on informal trading were criticised for being too stringent and not well thought out as they put an abrupt stop to operations in the sector, robbing informal traders of their livelihoods during the lockdown.

The government announced recently that it was relaxing some regulations to allow for the reopening of spaza shops and informal trading during the lockdown period.

On Tuesday night, Ramaphosa said his administration would continue to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs), spaza shop owners and other small businesses through loans, grants and debt restructuring.

The value of assistance to date is over R100m and an additional R2bn would be made available to these enterprises, he said. A further R100bn will be set aside to protect existing jobs and create new ones.

However, Mandla Rayi, chair of the select committee on economic and small business development, said they were concerned that traders in the informal sector “are unable to access the benefits as they are not registered”.

The traders were also unable to trade during the coronavirus lockdown. Rayi called on the department of small business development, among other stakeholders, to assist the traders with registration “so that they could access the lockdown benefits that the government has made available”.

On Wednesday, Violet Siwela, chair of the portfolio committee on small business development, said the additional R2bn for SMEs will go a long way in providing much-needed relief to the “most vulnerable but yet so important sector of the economy”.

The informal trading sector is worth more than R4bn and employs more people than the formal trading industry, according to University of Pretoria development studies lecturer Marc Wegerif.

“Though the Covid-19 pandemic has placed the country and the world on an uncharted path that requires extraordinary measures to ease the impact on small businesses and other sectors of the economy, the government is doing its best under the circumstances,” said Siwela.

The department of small business development could not immediately be reached for comment. Small business development minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has said owners of small businesses should have been operational by February 29 to qualify for relief.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za