Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has said that South African businesses, regardless of race, should receive state support with a "bias towards emerging black business people", as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the country's already-struggling economy.
Mboweni was on Tuesday answering questions during an online briefing to Parliament on National Treasury's Annual Performance Plan and its strategic plan for the next five years.
Treasury, in its worst case scenario, has projected that up to 7 million South Africans may lose their jobs as a result of the nationwide lockdown imposed to stem the spread of the virus, which would catapult SA's unemployment rate to well above 50%. The commissioner of the SA Revenue Service, Edward Kieswetter, told the same meeting on Tuesday that SA faces a loss of up to R285 billion in tax revenues this year as a result of a steep decline in economic activity.
The finance minster said race was a "very vexing question," giving the example of the Magoebaskloof Hotel close to where he lives in Limpopo, which has a white owner but whose staff is overwhelmingly black.
"I think we need to support all enterprises, black and white, as long as they are able to remain viable, support our people and create jobs. Let's continue to build this non racial South Africa," he said.
Mboweni added that there would "always be a bias [in state aid] towards emerging black business people because they were discriminated against for a long time."
"But let's pull together and build a South Africa of our dreams - non-racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous."
Last week trade union Solidarity and its civil rights associate, AfriForum, lost a case in the the North Gauteng High Court to have the empowerment-based criteria for the allocation of relief funds in the tourism sector affected by the pandemic declared unlawful.
The trade union has said it will apply to the Constitutional Court to hear the matter.