Coronavirus | Rupert R1bn fund to help small businesses oversubscribed in a matter of days

A R1 billion fund set up by the Rupert family to assist small businesses financially impacted by Covid-19 has been oversubscribed, just days after it opened.

The fund, known as the Sukuma Relief Programme, is administered by Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), a leading risk finance company for small and medium enterprises, co-owned by billionaire Johann Rupert. 

Applications for the Sukuma programme officially opened on Friday 3 April, but it has since reached its capacity, with applications exceeding the current available capital of R1 billion, BUSINESS/PARTNERS said in a statement issued on Monday night. According to BUSINESS/PARTNERS, this includes completed applications and applications in progress.

Crippling impact

BUSINESS/PARTNERS managing director Ben Bierman said that the high number of applications received by the programme over the weekend and Monday reflects the "crippling" impact of the Covid-19 crisis on SA small businesses.

"Just three days after the online portal was opened for applications, the Programme has already received in excess of 10 000 applications from formal sole proprietors, close corporations, companies and trusts," said Bierman.

The combined value of the two application categories of the programme - close corporations and sole proprieters exceeds R2.8 billion. "This exceeds the available donated capital of R1 billion almost three times over. As such, we have decided to suspend access to the application portal with immediate effect," said Bierman.

'Severely' oversubscribed

Bierman said BUSINESS/PARTNERS will assess the applications over the next seven days. If there is capital available, in the case that some applicants could not be verified or approved, then the programme will be opened for applications again.

Bierman called on big businesses and corporations to contribute funding to the Sukuma Relief Programme. "We realised when engaging with our clients that the situation is dire, but we have been surprised by the sheer number of SMEs that are in desperate need of assistance," he said.

"We unfortunately had to close the online application portal as the programme is already severely oversubscribed, and in keeping the portal open, we run the risk of not being able to meet expectations.

"As such, we are making a public plea to other big businesses that are looking to support local SMEs during this critical time ... Now is the time to get involved and support each other," Bierman said.

The Sukuma programme will provide qualifying sole proprietors a non-repayable grant of R25 000. Formal close corporations, companies and trusts are eligible for an unsecured loan that ranges between R250 000 and R1 000 000, with no repayment obligations or interest incurred for the first 12 months - this is in addition to a R25 000 grant, according to Bierman. The repaid funds will be used to support other small businesses through challenging times.

Compiled by Lameez Omarjee

ZAR/USD
16.88
(-0.81)
ZAR/GBP
21.56
(-0.24)
ZAR/EUR
19.82
(-0.41)
ZAR/AUD
12.14
(-0.11)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-0.75)
Gold
1901.88
(-0.78)
Silver
24.07
(-3.71)
Platinum
880.00
(-0.38)
Brent Crude
42.14
(-3.94)
Palladium
2270.49
(-0.59)
All Share
53390.39
(+0.13)
Top 40
49229.06
(+0.15)
Financial 15
9483.50
(-0.38)
Industrial 25
71486.60
(+0.66)
Resource 10
53789.45
(-0.26)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Do you think it was a good idea for the government to approach the IMF for a $4.3 billion loan to fight Covid-19?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes. We need the money.
11% - 1321 votes
It depends on how the funds are used.
73% - 8690 votes
No. We should have gotten the loan elsewhere.
16% - 1916 votes
Vote