Doors closed for applicants seeking relief from Johann Rupert’s R1bn fund following oversubscription

Johann Rupert. Picture: Cornel van Heerden
Johann Rupert. Picture: Cornel van Heerden

Small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) have been gravely affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus, which has been evident in their efforts to seek relief funding.

Only three days after billionaire businessperson Johann Rupert’s R1 billion Sukuma Relief Programme officially opened, applications have exceeded the available capital.

In a statement issued on Monday night, business finance institution Business Partners said more than 10 000 applications were submitted to the fund in three days.

Business Partners, in which Rupert has a share through his investment holding company Remgro, was appointed as administrator of the fund.

According to Ben Bierman, managing director at Business Partners, the majority of applications received included completed applications and applications in progress.

This is a permanent vehicle to support South African SMMEs in distress, and we intend to help support as many businesses as possible.

Having only opened the application process on April 3, Bierman on Monday said “just days after applications opened for the Sukuma Relief Programme, the fund has been oversubscribed, with applications for financial assistance far exceeding the current available capital of R1 billion.

“The high number of applications that the programme received over the past weekend as well as on [April 6] is indicative of the crippling impact that the Covid-19 crisis is having on South African SMMEs.”

As a result of the overwhelming number of applications, he said, the Sukuma programme “has now been closed to new applicants”.

The fund is made up of two separate relief offerings – one for formal sole proprietors and another for close corporations, companies and trusts.

Bierman said the financial aid and assistance would comprise grants and low-interest-bearing loans with a 12-month repayment holiday.

He has also made it clear that Business Partners’ responsibility is “to ensure that every cent contributed to the fund ends up in the hands of business owners.

“This is a permanent vehicle to support South African SMMEs in distress, and we intend to help support as many businesses as possible.

“It should be noted, in this regard, that Business Partners will not be profiting from the funding in any way, and no fees will be charged in relation to the Sukuma Relief Programme.”

According to the fund’s administrator, the Rupert family “will also not be paid back at any point”.

Bierman explained that “the repayment of the loan portion was an appeal to the beneficiaries of the programme to pay it forward once their businesses are back on their feet, in order to allow for the continuing support of other SMMEs into the future.

“While the fund has been originated to provide SMMEs with financial aid to assist them in weathering the Covid-19 storm, the plan is for it to run on a sustainable basis over the long term and continue to help SMMEs during challenging times in the future.”

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