Govt portal allows firms to seek trading approval during lockdown

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Minister of trade, industry and competition Ebrahim Patel.
Minister of trade, industry and competition Ebrahim Patel.

The South African government has announced businesses can from today get clarification on what qualifies as “essential” during the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown, by seeking approval through a portal being run by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

After a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, president Cyril Ramaphosa ordered a nation-wide lockdown, restricting travel, leisure, work, churchgoing and other aspects of life.

The order forces “non-essential” businesses to shut down for three weeks.

While this closure will last for 21 days, government will re-evaluate the situation as more and more people are expected to test positive.

Businesses are now being urged to use Biz Portal for up-to-date information and clarification on essential status.

The site suffered technical issues throughout the morning, and was intermittently unreachable.

In order for businesses to trade during the lockdown, they have to apply through this portal, in terms of the regulations published on Wednesday by minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Regulation Gazette No 11062.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition says such businesses are required to apply to the Biz Portal Web site and obtain a certificate from the commission that allows them to continue trading.

“The Biz Portal Web site will contain a menu icon listed as ‘Essential Service Businesses’ through which an application can be made to the CIPC [Companies Intellectual Property Commission],” it says.

The department notes the application will be a declaration requiring minimal registration details, type of business/trade involved in, what trading name if any is used and whether it meets the requirements contained in the essential services list, the contact details of the person applying, as well as the number of employees that will be working during the lockdown period.

In addition it says, the CIPC registry will then pre-populate the remaining company information and e-mail a certificate stating the business is allowed to remain trading.

The department says: “The certificate can then be used as evidence to authorities requiring same that indeed the business has been given government permission to trade and that its employees are able to have unrestricted movement only in the course of that trade.”

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition has also cautioned that if businesses make a false application to the CIPC, and are not an essential service as per the government regulations, “such will be taken as a fraudulent application and will render yourself as applicant liable to criminal prosecution and sanction”.

The Biz Portal, a single integrated company registration online platform, was launched in November by minister of trade, industry and competition Ebrahim Patel.

The project was launched to allow entrepreneurs to register a company within a day in South Africa.

Through the platform, entrepreneurs are able to register a business within a day, which the government says is a dramatic improvement on turnaround times of 40 days recorded by the World Bank 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report.

The digital platform houses all business-related services from various public entities in the country.

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