South African businesses are now able to apply online and automatically download a certificate to prove they are essential service providers, as the country gears up to implement a 21-day national lockdown.
During this period, only businesses deemed essential by government will be able to continue trading.
Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel on Wednesday announced that businesses can apply for required certification via the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission's Bizportal website (bizportal.gov.za/) from Thursday. Businesses which are registered with the CIPC such as companies, close corporations and co-operatives will be able to apply for certification.
The website was experiencing problems on Thursday, but the CIPC said these had been fixed on Friday.
A list of businesses recognised as essential services has been gazetted by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The gazette (Regulation Gazette 43148) indicates that essential goods and services include grocery stores, pharmacies, spaza shops, and funeral services, among others.
CIPC official Ofentse Shakung told Fin24 via text message on Thursday that the application and registration process would be "immediate". It is an automatic electronic process and certification will be made available instantly. "The process will be completely electronic, on the BizPortal website. A physical certificate will also be issued on the same website," Shakung said. Businesses will be able to apply throughout the duration of the lockdown period.
According to the DTI the process is as follows:
Go to the Bizportal website at https://bizportal.gov.za/, which looks like this:
After clicking on the Services tab, on the top right of the page, you will be taken to a new page with icons. The icon you want to click on next is the Covid-19 essential services icon - which is bright red.
Once you click on this Covid-19 essential services icon, you will be taken to another page where you will be able to make an application to the CIPC. The page includes a list of essential services. Scroll down to the bottom where you will find the application icon.
According to the DTI, the application will be a "simple declaration", requiring minimal registration details, including this such as the type of business/trade, trading name, whether it meets the requirements contained in the essential services list. The list of essential services is available on the website too.
The person applying must fill out their contact details, as well as the number of employees that will be working during the lockdown period.
The CIPC registry will then pre-populate the remaining company information.
A certificate stating that the business is allowed to remain trading will be emailed or can be downloaded from the site.
The certificate can then be used as evidence to authorities – to show the business has been given government permission to trade, according to the DTI. The business's employees will have unrestricted movement, only in the course of the trade.
"It should be stressed and noted that if you make a false application to the CIPC, and are indeed not an essential service as per the government regulations, such will be taken as a fraudulent application and will render yourself as applicant liable to criminal prosecution and sanction," the DTI warned.
* This article was updated on Tuesday, 31 March 2020, to indicate that businesses already registered with the CIPC will be able to apply for certification to operate during the lockdown.