Business contributes additional billions to fight SA's COVID-19 outbreak

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The Solidarity Fund announced on 30 March that it would be using a portion of the R500m raised during its first week of operations to facilitate the emergency procurement of the personal protective equipment (PPE) – including 5m face masks – that was urgently required by public and private healthcare practitioners at the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Polity.

Fund chair Gloria Serobe, who is also Wiphold founder and executive director, reported during a briefing that the fund would initially prioritise the provision of finance for initiatives aimed at augmenting the South African government’s health response. It would, in time, also support humanitarian efforts, such as boosting food security for vulnerable communities and supporting distressed small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and initiate communication campaigns to help motivate and inspire citizens to unite behind efforts to tackle the spread of the virus. It was anticipated that other critical goods, such as test kits and ventilators, could be procured in future, with the fund’s procurement efforts to be guided by equipment gaps identified by the health authorities.

The report says the order for face masks was being placed with “reputable” manufacturers in China, but every effort would be made to place future orders with local manufacturers. The PPE being purchased from China would need to meet South African standards for such equipment, but the fund was also conducting its own due diligence of the products to ensure their efficacy.

Vice chair Dr Adrian Enthoven, who is also executive chair of Yellowwoods, stressed that R2bn in pledges made by the Oppenheimer and Rupert families would not be administered by the Solidarity Fund, which had secured its initial capital from government, corporates and individuals.

The report says the Oppenheimer and Rupert families had indicated that their donations would be used to cushion SMEs from the economic fallout associated with the response to the pandemic, which in South Africa’s case included a 21-day lockdown from midnight on 26 March to midnight on April 16.

Likewise, the Motsepe family, together with African Rainbow Minerals, Sanlam and African Rainbow Capital had pledged a further R1bn to assist with South Africa’s COVID-19 response effort.

According to the report, Business Unity South Africa’s Martin Kingston, who is also executive chair of Rothschild & Company, stressed that the Solidarity Fund was not the only initiative under way to support citizens and businesses through the pandemic. “This is completely independent from Business for South Africa, which is liaising with all social partners, particularly on healthcare-related issues, labour-market matters and economic interventions,” Kingston explained

Naspers has committed R1.5bn in emergency funding to aid the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak, Fin24 reports that the group said. It will contribute R500m to the Solidarity Response Fund, the independent relief fund announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Government seeded it with initial funding of R150m.

The report says in addition to the R500m, Naspers will buy R1bn worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies in China, in partnership with the Chinese government and Tencent. This will be flown out to South Africa as soon as possible, the statement said.

Group CEO Bob van Dijk added that the coronavirus pandemic required "dramatic action" and that Naspers was contributing to the measures already underway in South Africa. Additionally, he thanked the government of China and Tencent, the report says.

"We have great appreciation for the encouragement we received from the Chinese government – also their diplomatic mission in South Africa. They always been a friend to Africa and we value their solidarity in this crisis," added Naspers chair Koos Bekker.

Full Polity report

Full Fin24 report

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