Business relief during the COVID-19 pandemic

Both government and industry are offering relief for businesses in distress during the pandemic. Find out whether your business is eligible for support.

Government Relief
Loan Scheme for SMEs

As announced by the President, National Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank and commercial banks have jointly created a guaranteed loan scheme. In terms of this scheme, R200-billion will ultimately be made available for new loans to existing customers, with the initial phase being R100-billion. The loan scheme will operate from 12 May 2020 and the initial set of participating banks (Absa, First National Bank, Investec, Mercantile Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank) are ready to accept loan applications from eligible businesses which bank with them.

Description of Funding
  • Funds borrowed through this scheme can be used for operational expenses such as salaries, rent and lease agreements, contracts with suppliers, etc. Loans will cover up to three months of operational costs and will be drawn down monthly.
  • Banks are not obliged to extend COVID-19 loans, and those that do will use their normal risk evaluation and credit application processes. Business owners may be required to sign surety for the loan.
  • COVID-19 loans will be offered at a single, agreed lending rate by all banks participating in the scheme. The rate will track the repo rate (currently the lending rate will be at the prime lending rate of 7.75%).
  • A six-month repayment holiday will commence from the first drawdown, although interest will accumulate from the date on which the first drawdown on the loan occurs.
  • Repayment of interest and capital starts after six months and businesses have a maximum of 60 months to repay. Borrowers can repay the loan ahead of schedule.
Qualifying Criteria
  • COVID-19 loans will be available to eligible businesses that have an annual turnover of less than R300-million and are in good standing with their commercial banks.
  • Each business may accept only one COVID-19 loan.
Application Process
  • Eligible businesses should contact their primary banker for further details. Please see example of criteria as published by Nedbank.
Department of Small Business Development
Available Funding

More than R500-million is being made available to assist small and medium-sized enterprises.

Type of Funding
  • Debt Relief Finance
  • Business Growth and Resilience Facility
Description of Funding

Debt Relief is aimed at providing relief on existing debts and loan repayments. The facility will also assist entities to acquire raw materials, pay labour and fund other operational costs.

Business Growth/Resilience Facility is specifically created to enable continued participation of SMMEs in supply value-chains, in particular those who manufacture or supply essential products that are in demand, emanating from shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility will offer working capital, bridging, order and equipment finance.

Qualifying Criteria
  • The business must have been registered with CIPC by at least 29 February 2020.
  • The business must be 100% owned by South African citizens.
  • 70% of employees must be South African.
  • The business must be registered and compliant with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
Required Documents

The following documentation will be required whether applying for Debt Relief or Business Growth and Resilience:

  • Company registration documents.
  • FICA documents (i.e. a municipal account or letter from traditional authority).
  • Certified ID copies of directors.
  • 3 months of bank statements.
  • Latest annual financial statements or latest management accounts, not older than 3 months from the date of application (if applicable).
  • Business profile.
  • 6 months of cash flow projections (if applicable).

Additional documentation required when applying for Debt Relief:

  • If applying for rental relief: Copy of lease agreement or proof of ownership.
  • If applying for payroll relief: Details of employees as registered with UIF, as well as their banking details.
  • Facility statements of other funders.
  • Detailed breakdown of funds required, including salaries, rent, etc.

Additional documentation required when applying for Business Growth/Resilience Facility:

  • Relevant Industry Certification (where applicable).
  • Estimated funding requirement.
Terms & Conditions
  • Prime less 5%.
Application Process
  • Register at
  • Complete the online form.
  • Upload the required supporting documentation.
Department of Tourism
Available Funding

The Department of Tourism has made R200 million available to SMME’s in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.

Qualifying Criteria
  • Be an existing tourism-specific establishment as outlined in the scope of application (suppliers and intermediaries are not eligible).
  • The company must be registered with CIPC.
  • Annual turnover must not exceed R2.5-million.
  • Registered with SARS and tax compliant.
  • Guaranteed employment for a minimum number of staff for a period of 3 months.
  • Proof of minimum wage compliance.
  • Must have been in existence for at least one business financial year.

Required Documents

  • Proof of UIF registration for employees.
  • Proof that the relief is required as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
  • Annual financial statements.
  • 12 months of bank statements.
  • Indicate the intended use of the resources.
National Empowerment Fund

In partnership with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) has set aside R200 million to facilitate funding for black entrepreneurs to manufacture and supply a range of medical products and produce food products in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terms & Conditions
  • Purchase of machinery and equipment, as well as working capital.
  • Limited to R10-million per applicant.
  • 12-month payment moratorium at 0% interest rate.
  • After 12 months a 2.5% interest rate will apply.
  • Maximum of 60-month repayment term, including the moratorium.
  • First drawdown to occur within 1 month of the approval date.
  • The fund can not be utilised for pre-existing debt.
Qualifying Criteria
  • The company or close corporation must be a registered entity with the CIPC.
  • Tax compliant with a valid tax clearance certificate.
  • Registered supplier with retailers and other institutions in good standing or have a purchase order, contract or letter of intent.
  • 51% black-owned, with black management and control with requisite industry experience.
  • Preference will be given to applicants that demonstrate meaningful black-women ownership, management and control.
  • Have a project with a minimum of R500,000 in working capital, machinery and equipment.
  • Results in the increase or retention of direct jobs.
Priority Products and Services
  • Disposable plastic gloves and face masks.
  • Dispensers (water sanitisers and soap).
  • PCR test kits for Coronavirus.
  • Protective respirators.
  • Disinfectants and alcohol-bases wipes.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Medical protective clothing.
  • Steel beds for hospitals and clinics.
  • Hospital linen and clothing.
  • Mattresses and/or sponge.
  • Protective goggles, hoods and face shields.
  • Hand sanitisers and soap.
  • Detergents/cleaning products.
  • Disposable aprons and cups.
  • A range of food products.
Required Documents
  • NEF form.
  • Declaration on BEE status and size of the business.
  • Summary of production in the last 3 months.
  • Historical financial statements (up to 3 years, if available).
  • Signed copy of a purchase order, contract or letter of intent.
  • Financial forecast for the duration of the contract.
  • Additional information that would enhance the application may be requested by the NEF.
Application Process

Applicants may reach the NEF on and on 011 305-8080 for this emergency funding.

Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA)

SMMEs funded by SEFA that are negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will qualify for a 6-month payment holiday on loans and associated interest accrued. The SEFA post-investment team will conduct analysis to determine whether the application requires a restructuring of the loan.

Required Documents
  • Proof that the Company has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
Required Documents
Private Sector Relief
The South African Future Trust (SAFT)

The South African Future Trust (SAFT) established by Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer will extend financial support of R1-billion to SMME employees who are at risk of losing their jobs or will suffer a loss of income due to COVID–19.


Eligible SMME employers should apply for the scheme through their preferred partner bank. A list of names of the employees at risk together with the required supporting documentation should be submitted by the SMME on behalf of the employees.


The preferred partner bank will directly deposit the funds into the account of the qualifying employees.

Loan Repayment

The funding will be made available in the form of an interest free loan repayable by the SMME within 5 years.

Partner Banks

The scheme is currently available to the clients of four banks: ABSA, Standard Bank, Nedbank and FNB.

Eligibility Criteria

SMMEs need to meet the following criteria to qualify for the scheme:

  • Annual turnover should be less than R25-million.
  • Trading for at least 24 months.
  • Was a sustainable business on 29 February 2020.
  • Adversely impacted by COVID-19.
Required Documents

SMMEs need to provide the following documents (as a minimum) to apply for the scheme:

  • Company registration number.
  • A valid PAYE registration number registered with SARS.
  • A valid income tax number registered with SARS.
  • Confirmation of permanent employment status of the employee.

It is expected that the SMMEs should be able to apply for the funding from April 3, 2020, by registering the interest directly with their bank.

More information can be found at

Sukuma Relief Programme (Business Partners)

The Rupert Family and Remgro have pledged R1-billion to SMEs that have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Business Partners has been appointed as the administrator of the fund, known as the Sukuma Relief Programme. The programme offers distinct financial aid to formal sole proprietors, close corporations, companies and trusts.

Formal Sole Proprietors

The Sukuma Relief Programme offers qualifying formal sole proprietors a R25,000 grant. The grant is not repayable, however beneficiaries are encouraged to pay it forward and repay as much of the grant to the Public Benefit Organisation created for the initiative as they can afford. The money will be used to provide financial aid to other business owners in need in future.

Qualifying Criteria
  • Evidence of financial activity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Tax compliance.
Required Documents
  • 3 months of bank statements of the business per the period 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020.
  • Copy of ID document.
  • Copy of business licence (where applicable).
  • Copy of tax clearance certificate.
Application Process
Disbursement Process
  • Financial aid is expected to be disbursed within 7 working days from the date of application.
Close Corporations, Companies and Trusts

The Sukuma Relief Programme offers qualifying close corporations, companies and trusts financial aid in the form of an unsecured interest-bearing loan of between R250,000 and R1-million coupled with a non-repayable grant of R25,000.

  • No repayment obligations for 12 months.
  • No interest to be incurred or raised for 12 months.
  • Interest to be raised at prime rate from month 13.
  • Repayment of the loan to commence from month 13.
Qualifying Criteria
  • Formally registered with CIPC.
  • Evidence of financial activity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Tax compliance.
Required Documents
  • Annual financial statements for the financial period ended 28 February 2019, signed off by a professional accountant.
  • Management accounts for the period 1 March 2019 to at least 31 December 2019.
  • The latest available EMP201 document submitted to SARS, not older than 3 months.
  • 3 months of bank statements of the business for the period 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020.
  • A rental (premises) statement, not older than 3 months.
  • Statements for any other credit agreements such as asset finance or trade finance loan agreements as at 30 January 2020.
  • Motivation and supporting documentation clearly illustrating the financial distress suffered by the SME as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. reduction of turnover, erosion of working capital, inability to pay wages, rent, overheads or inability or difficulty in servicing existing debt obligations).
  • Statements of assets and liabilities of the main business owner.
  • Copies of IDs of directors, shareholders, members, and trustees (as applicable).
  • Copy of marriage certificate including ANC documents, divorce certificate or death certificate (where applicable).
  • Company, close corporation or trust registration documents.
  • Confirmation of bank account details issued by the relevant bank.
Application Process
Disbursement Process

Once approved, the first disbursement is expected within 7 working days from the date of application. Thereafter the approved financial aid will be disbursed over a 3-month period

Tax Relief from SARS

Refer to the SARS website for the latest updates at

Employee Tax Incentives (ETI)

To minimise the loss of jobs during this critical period, SARS will expand the ETI programme for a limited period of 4 months, beginning 1 April 2020 and ending 31 July 2020 as follows:

  • Increasing the maximum amount of ETI for current employees under the ETI Act from R1,000 to R1,500 in the first qualifying 12 months, and from R500 to R1,000 in the second qualifying 12 months for employees earning below R6,500 per month.
  • Allowing a monthly ETI claim to the amount of R500 for employees from the ages of:
    • 18 to 29 who are no longer eligible for ETI as the employer has claimed ETI in respect of those employees for 24 months.
    • 30 to 65 who are not eligible for the ETI due to their age.
  • Accelerating the payment of ETI reimbursements from twice per year to monthly as a means of getting cash back into the hands of tax compliant employers as soon as possible.
Deferral of Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) Payments

To help alleviate any cashflow burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the following tax relief measures have been implemented:

  • The deferral of 20% of the PAYE liability, without SARS imposing administrative penalties and interest for the late payment of the deferred amount.
  • These relief measures will be in place for a period of 4 months for the tax period April 2020 to July 2020.
  • The deferred PAYE liability is repayable to SARS in equal instalments over a 6-month period commencing 1 August 2020 (i.e. the first payment must be made on 7 September 2020).
Qualifying Criteria
  • Annual turnover may not exceed R50-million.
  • The business must be tax compliant.
Deferral of Provisional Tax

To help alleviate any cashflow burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the following tax relief measures have been implemented:

  • The deferral of a portion of the payment of the first and second provisional tax liabilities to SARS, without SARS imposing administrative penalties and interest for the late payment of the deferred amount.
  • The first provisional payment due from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020 will be based on 15% of the estimated total tax liability.
  • The second provisional payment due from 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2021 will be based on 65% of the estimated total tax liability.
  • The deferred payments will be required to be paid in full when making the third provisional payment.
Qualifying Criteria
  • Annual turnover may not exceed R50-million.
  • The business must be tax compliant.
Value Added Tax (VAT)

It should be noted that no tax relief measures relating to VAT have been announced. The automatic 10% penalty will therefore still be applied to any late payment of VAT.

SARS did however announce a VAT exemption for essential goods on importation.

Due to the measures put in place under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002, "essential goods" as defined in Regulation R.398 in Government Gazette No 43148 of 25 March 2020 will be subject to a VAT exemption on importation during the COVID-19 pandemic, under Item 412.11/00.00/01.00 of Schedule 1 to the Value Added Tax Act 89 of 1991. A full rebate of customs duty under rebate item 412.11 of Schedule No. 4 to the Customs and Excise Act 91 of 1964 is available where ITAC has approved the rebate for the goods concerned.

Employee Benefits/UIF Relief
Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)

To combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UIF will assist affected workers through existing benefits. These benefits include:

  • Reduced work time benefit is applicable when a company shuts down for a period of time or work time is reduced. The benefit payable is the difference between the amount paid by the employer and the normal UIF benefits should to employee lose their employment.
  • Illness benefit is applicable in the event that an employee becomes ill and has to be quarantined for 14 days. The benefit payable is calculated in terms on the existing UIF regulations.
  • Death benefit is applicable should an employee pass away as a result of contracting COVID-19. The benefit payable is calculated in terms on the existing UIF regulations.
Required Documents

The following documents will be required on submission of the claim:

Reduced Work Time Benefit

Illness Benefit

Death Benefit

Application Process

The claim forms can be lodged on

National Disaster Benefit

In addition to the above, a National Disaster Benefit was established. If an employer decides, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, to close its business for a period and send their employees home, these employees are deemed to be temporarily laid-off. In the event that the employer cannot pay the employees during this time, the employer may apply for the National Disaster Benefit from the UIF.


The benefit will be at a flat rate equal to the minimum wage (R3,500) per employee for the duration of the shutdown or a maximum period of 3 months, whichever period is the shortest.

Required Documents

The following documents will be required on submission of the claim:

Application Process

The claim forms can be lodged on

Temporary Employee Relief Scheme

The existing TERS was expanded by the Minister of Labour on 25 March 2020 to include a COVID-19 TERS. In terms of COVID-19 TERS, should an employer as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic close its operations, in full or in part, for 3 months or less and suffer financial distress, the company may be eligible for a COVID-19 Temporary Relief Benefit.

Required Documents

SMMEs will need to provide the following documentation to apply for the scheme:

  • Letter of authority on an official company letterhead granting permission to an individual specified to lodge a claim on behalf of the company.
  • Evidence/payroll as proof of last three months employee(s) salary(ies) (i.e. bank statements or payroll records/payslips).
  • MOA document (completion of the agreement between UIF, Bargaining Council and employer). Only applicable to employers that have more than 10 employees.
    • MOA UIF Employer to be completed for employers with more than 10 employees.
      • Complete the company name on page 1.
      • Initial each page.
      • Sign in full on the last page.
    • Please note that the alternative MOAs, MOA-B, MOA-C and MOA-D, relate to Bargaining Councils and are most probably not applicable to yourselves.
  • Prescribed template that will require critical information from the employer. Please see the guideline on how to convert the excel template to CSV format and an example of the CSV document to be submitted.
  • Confirmation of the employer's bank account details.
  • Confirmation of bank account details for COVID-19 TERS in the form of a bank confirmation letter. The letter no longer needs to be certified.
  • Letter of understanding.
Application Process
  • Employers that have to enforce lockdown and who might require financial assistance from the UIF should access information regarding the available funding though the dedicated mailbox at
  • On receipt of your request you will receive an automated response outlining the process and documentation required by the fund to process the application.
  • Submit all documents to the UIF via the dedicated mailbox at
  • The COVID-19 system will attend to all applications and thereafter send an approval or rejection letter.
Easy-Aid Guides
Essential Services

During the lockdown period only businesses that provide essential services will be allowed to trade. Businesses that provide such services are required to apply for a certificate to trade.

If you qualify as an essential service and wish to apply for a certificate to trade during the lockdown period, you can do so through

Please note that the submission of incorrect information is a criminal offence and will lead to prosecution.

Learn more at