Restaurant owners who have been battered by the recent unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are not keeping their hopes up about the R5.3-billion government scheme to help businesses and employees.
Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa, says some are still waiting to receive pay-outs after being approved by the Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) in August 2020.
This, as Mzwanele Yawa, chief director of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), last week told Moneyweb, “There is not a person who applied and qualified for payment of Ters who has not been paid.”
The previous Ters funding was for employers whose businesses suffered as a result of Covid-19 lockdown regulations. The new round is for employees who have lost their jobs last month during what President Cyril Ramaphosa described as a violent uprising against government.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni says, “Together with National Treasury we will work out how this [the new Ters process] is going to work. Speed is of the essence in this regard.”
Ters has provided crucial support for many sectors that have been unable to operate, and its reintroduction will help to ensure that jobs are protected and that workers can continue to earn an income as businesses rebuild.
Dondo Mogajane, the treasury’s director general, says, “For those who [have] lost their jobs due to the recent unrest, the UIF will provide income support using different instruments that it has at its disposal.”
Not many opportunities left
Meanwhile, restaurants owners are still battling to receive Ters payments for their workers from previous rounds, says Alberts.
“Pay-outs for immigrant employees are a major challenge and some are still waiting for Ters money from January this year. It’s a challenging process. It seems like there’s staff challenges within the UIF department, and administration and potential IT problems that rest within the Ters website login [platform],” Alberts tells Food For Mzansi.
Moreover, a number of individuals have now contacted the association in complete desperation for them to be assisted as well, Alberts says.
This is because many restaurant operators have completely exhausted every financial opportunity to help their workers on time.
Little enjoyment left
The death of the dinner time trade has also been very difficult for restaurant owners.
Alberts says they are unable to trade without 70% of the turnover due to the restriction of alcohol sales at 20:00 and closure regulation by 21:00 for guests.
“It makes no sense for people to enjoy themselves. They feel that they go out rushing themselves and it no longer becomes an enjoyable experience. Our business modules are based on enjoyable experiences,” she stresses.
Over the last 16 months, the impact of the different levels of lockdown have had a major impact on the restaurant industry, bringing many restaurant businesses to its knees.
“As we’ve moved through the lifting of the third wave’s restrictions and moved to adjusted level three, we still find that our businesses are heavily impacted and [facing] severe challenges,” says Alberts.
Meanwhile, during an interview with Moneyweb, Yawa said payments are now being made to employees directly. With regards to outstanding payments, the UIF boss added, “There is not a person who applied and qualified for payment of Ters who has not been paid.
“Those that are said to be backlogs are employees who, some of them, when we verify either at Home Affairs, if there is such an ID, or if such a person is still alive, or such a person is not in jail, and such a person is known truly as a worker, even from Sars.
“All those that failed that verification are the ones who have not been paid. We communicated with all those employers who applied, to say these people – sometimes the bank rejects this bank account. Or sometimes these people are not verifiable either at Sars or Home Affairs.
“Come back to us then, so that we correct it. None of them came back, which makes us conclude that, even on their side, these are not employees who legitimately should have been paid.”