DA urges a rates holiday to help businesses affected by coronavirus

Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws
Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws

The DA has requested the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality give businesses battling to survive the Covid-19 epidemic a rates and refuse payment holiday, along with a waiver on water and sewage charges.

In a written joint statement from DA councillors Renaldo Gouws and Malcolm Figg, the party also requested that the municipality freeze rental payments for businesses leasing land from the city.

“Now more than ever the municipality needs to assist where we can, to ensure that our economy survives this turbulent time,” the statement reads.

Stringent measures have been put in place by the government, which includes alcohol not being sold between 6pm and 9am on weekdays and Saturdays and after 1pm on Sundays and public holidays. Establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time.

This has already led to a number of outlets in the city to temporarily closed their doors.

“Businesses are the hardest hit and the latest restraint on trade for restaurants, pubs and clubs could potentially have a massive negative economic impact not only on these businesses, but also on the people they employ and the metro at large.”

The councillors wrote that small, medium- and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) would likely be the hardest hit as they have no safety net to rely on while the virus continues to spread.

They suggested the municipality develop a “disaster relief package” to carry businesses until the rate of infection slows down.

Gouws wrote to economic development, tourism & agriculture political chair Marlon Daniels requesting he meet budget and Treasury political head Mkhuseli Mtsila to start the process.

“I believe a reprieve of rental for businesses renting from the municipality during the duration of this limitation on trading hours for businesses will go far in ensuring that job losses are prevented and that the negative economic impact that is felt, is lessened,” Gouws wrote in a letter, dated March 20.

Daniels, when contacted, said it would be premature to focus on a “populist request” for the rental freeze made by Gouws and Figg.

“As much as we have to reflect on the impact of the Covid-19 virus and come up with measures to assist not just business owners, but each and every resident within the municipality, we have to prioritise people before profits,” he said.

He said the municipality would be guided by any announcements made by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We shall be guided by whatever the president declares. Many eateries are already not paying market related rentals as we speak,” he said.

“It will therefore be reckless to consider any form of reprieve while the tenants are already getting away with murder.

“A blanket approach when it comes to businesses seeking a reprieve within the affluent ward 2 where Gouws serves as councillor needs to be considered with caution,” he said.

Mtsila did not respond to several telephone calls or WhatsApp messages on the suggested rates and refuse payment holiday and waiver on water and sewage charges.

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