The R1 billion Sukuma Relief Programme, which was started by the Rupert family and Remgro, has put new applications on hold as it has already hit capacity.
Business Partners, which administers the fund, launched a website for SMEs and sole proprietors to apply for funding on 3 April 2020.
In the three days which followed, the combined value of the applications for the programme reached over R2.8 billion. This includes both completed applications and applications in progress.
“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 Ben Bierman, managing director at Business Partners.
“We will now be using the next seven days to assess the applications received and provide feedback to the applicants.
“Should we thereafter find that there is still capital available, either because some of the applicants were not verified and approved, or because we have managed to secure additional capital, we will then open the Programme for applications again,” he said.
Speaking about the overwhelming response, Bierman says it is effectively a cry for help from South Africa’s SME sector.
“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,” he said.
Emphasising the grave need for additional capital to continue supporting the struggling SME sector, Bierman is now calling 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.
“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. SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy and they are in need of financial assistance, now more than ever before, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now is the time to get involved and support each other,” he said.