22 July 2020


Submitted by Archy Hlahla

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Four eminent South Africans have agreed to serve on an advisory panel of experts to help guide the future development of The Sukuma Fund, which provides crisis assistance to small businesses most affected by the economic impact of the corona-virus.

The Fund was formed in March this year to distribute the R1 billion donated by the Rupert Family and Remgro Limited, long-time supporters of the small business sector, in response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. The Fund is administered free of charge by Business Partners.

Sukuma is still processing the more than 30 000 applications that poured in before it temporarily stopped accepting new applications in early April. To date, it has approved over R68 million in nonrefundable grants to 2 751 sole proprietors and SME businesses and has committed over R547 million in soft loans to 1 059 SME businesses. It estimates that 26 620 jobs have been saved as businesses were saved from closure.

The first four members of the advisory panel of experts were announced today by Sukuma.

They are, in alphabetical order:

  • Cas Coovadia, head of Business Unity South Africa and a former CEO of the Banking Association of South Africa,
  • Dr Thabi Leoka, a leading South African economist who was recently appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to serve on the Public Investment Corporation Commission of Inquiry,
  • The most reverend Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, who has degrees in science, psychology and education, and who heads a development trust focusing on economic and entrepreneurial development, and
  • Dr Thami Mazwai, a member of the International Council of Small Business, former special advisor to the Minister of Small Business Development, Commissioner of the National Planning Commission and entrepreneurship professor.

“ They comprise an extraordinarily accomplished team. We are very fortunate to have their advice and wise counsel as we move forward with successive phases of our crisis relief program over the next few years,” said Nazeem Martin, Sukuma chairman.

The panel members all looked forward to contributing to what they saw as an essential initiative.

“Sukuma is unique and it’s important that an independent operation like this helps as many small businesses as possible, both now and in the future. Sukuma is looking to become a more permanent rescue fund, with capital to support small businesses when the next crisis strikes. When they need advice, we have the experience to support them in this endeavour,” Coovadia said.

Dr Leoka identified immediately with Sukuma’s mission to rescue small businesses. “ This is a critical task because of the importance of small businesses to the economy. I’m very pleased to be a part of it.”

Archbishop Makgoba commented on the first of Sukuma’s guiding principles, which is Humanity.“Our country is in crisis because of Covid-19 and the pandemic has brought great distress to small business owners, their employees and their families. A relief fund has to make hard-headed decisions, but when it is guided by humanity and compassion, it can achieve so much more.”

Mazwai said he had been impressed by Sukuma’s dedication to unity – taking hands to solve a problem. “ This is a partnership between the Fund and the recipients of grants and loans that will enable their businesses to survive. There is also a need to help the entrepreneurs who failed to meet the funding criteria, understand what is required, and possibly to resubmit their applications.”

Sukuma’s aim has been to provide funding to keep small businesses open and to keep people employed because small businesses have been hardest hit by nearly three months of corona-virus lockdowns. The lockdown restrictions might be easing, but the economy is in recession and small businesses will take months, if not years, to recover.

Sukuma also aims to become a longer-term relief fund to assist small businesses in trouble because of an emergency or disaster. Businesses given soft loans have a 12-month period free of any repayments. Repayments start next year, providing capital for future loans in times of crisis.

Sukuma stands for the timeless principles of all rescue missions: Humanity, Impartiality, Independence, Unity and Neutrality.

It is a unique and innovative operation, and Sukuma sees the advisory panel of experts not only helping to navigate its way now but also advising on its future course.

“Their role will be advisory only – they will have no executive duties. The contributions of these vastly experienced and respected South Africans will be invaluable as we develop Sukuma into a more permanent crisis relief fund for small businesses,” Martin said.