South Africa: Government SME Relief Package Unfairly Discriminates Against Non-Citizens

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Only by keeping the values of Ubuntu, equality, love and care at the front and centre of our response to Covid-19 will we be able to get through this epidemic as a global community. This applies in particular to support to people in SMEs and the informal sector who are foreign migrants.

The South African government's Debt Relief Finance Scheme is a lifeline for small businesses struggling to survive the lockdown. The scheme, launched by the Department of Small Business Development, is designed to support small and medium enterprises "which are negatively affected, directly or indirectly, due to the coronavirus pandemic to mitigate against job losses and the expected harsh economic impact".

But many SMEs are left to face the crisis alone, even though they legally own businesses, provide vital local services, and employ people. This is because, in order to benefit from the relief scheme, a business must be 100% South African owned and 70% of its employees must be South African citizens.

In the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it remains crucial for the government to heed its constitutional obligations.

Discrimination against non-citizens was declared unfair by the Constitutional Court over 20 years ago in Larbi-Odam, when it...

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