Rural areas to receive water during lockdown — Sisulu

Human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has brought hope to people living in rural areas, with her announcement that water will be supplied to 2,000 sites during the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown.
Human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has brought hope to people living in rural areas, with her announcement that water will be supplied to 2,000 sites during the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown.

Human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu provided some much-needed relief to thousands of residents in drought-stricken rural areas on Tuesday, announcing that water would be supplied to 2,000 sites during the coronavirus lockdown.

“In Limpopo, Free State, and Eastern Cape we had already ordered some water tankers and we are increasing the number so that we can quickly cover those affected areas,” she said.

More than a thousand tankers of water have already been delivered to the drought-stricken Eastern Cape.

Social grant recipients should be able to continue collecting their money and buy food during the national lockdown starting on Thursday.

Minister of social development Lindiwe Zulu said she had written to the department of defence, stipulating that the recipients would still need to eat and get their grants, even during the 21-day lockdown.

“Transport is of major concern to us, but we have our own suggestions that we think Sassa beneficiaries should be able to show their cards so they are allowed to get food and money,” Zulu said.

Zulu said the department acknowledged that transport would be an issue and suggested that people should therefore not rush to pay points, going rather to supermarkets where they can use their Sassa cards to shop at the same time.

In her address to the media in Pretoria on Tuesday, Sisulu said the government had identified 29 heavily populated areas that were of concern if the coronavirus reached them.

Containing the spread would become difficult in such an event, she said, but her department was consulting with the departments of land reform and public works.

Meanwhile, the government will release R3bn in funding through the Industrial Development Corporation for business and R1.2bn for food security, and will also pay over money for employee wages for businesses in distress.

Cabinet ministers in the economic cluster on Tuesday announced a raft of measures to shore up the economy during the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The measures are in addition to tax-related income and expenditure provisions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night, including R500m for small business support and a tax subsidy of R500 a month for employees earning less than R6,500 a month.

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said the IDC had packaged R3bn for industrial funding for “vulnerable firms” and companies “critical to our efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact”.

It was important that industry did not come to a total standstill and IDC interventions included R500m for trade finance for the importation of essential medical supplies, and R750m for working capital, equipment and machinery. Resources would also be pushed towards securing the supply chain as a result of large companies shutting down.

Patel said the government would relax policies in respect of financing facilities through the IDC, and anticompetitive behaviour applicable in various sectors. Already, banks have been given a reprieve from competition regulations to co-operate on relief programmes for consumers and small businesses in distress, payments and suspension of legal action.

But officials were also investigating at least 11 businesses which “are abusing the situation” and have hiked prices for face masks and hand sanitisers.

“Prosecutions will follow. The penalties are quite sharp — fines or penalties of a R1m, up to 10% of a company’s turnover and up to one year in jail,” Patel said.

While the details were not released of a safety net for businesses in the informal sector, small business development minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said her department would start a small business “Growth Resilience” fund which would include support for firms producing goods in the medical, hygiene and food sectors.

An SMME relief finance scheme, payment moratorium for loans to government financing schemes, and debt-restructuring would also be implemented. A special fund for self-employed and informal businesses would be launched soon.

Ntshavheni emphasised that only businesses owned by South Africans and with “at least 70%” of their employees being SA citizens would receive benefits. She said small businesses can register at if they require assistance during the Covid-19 crisis. — Additional reporting by TimesLIVE