JOHANNESBURG – Lawyers for the Department of Tourism have argued that because of the limited funds available to the Tourism Relief Fund, it had to prioritise the previously disadvantaged.
The department was taken to court on an urgent basis by lobby group AfriForum and trade union Solidarity. They want the court to order a review and set aside the decision to use Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) compliance as a requirement for the allocation of funds.
The Department of Tourism received over 10,000 applications for assistance from the Tourism Relief Fund but the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday heard that with only R200 million available and with a cap of R50,000 per business – only 4,000 businesses could benefit.
State lawyer Azhar Bham said because of that, some difficult decisions had to be made.
AfriForum argued that this was not the time for black economic empowerment but for relief for all as all businesses were forced to close their doors.
The distribution of funds was halted pending judgment, which is expected to be handed down by the end of the week.
‘CASE WORTH DEFENDING’
At the same time, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that once the High Court ruled on AfriForum’s case against the department, it would be able to move to stage two of the Tourism Relief Fund.
The minister was present in court on Tuesday to hear the urgent application by the lobby group.
Kubayi-Ngubane said this case was worth defending.
“When we were working on this programme of the relief fund, we had a phase 1 and phase 2, which is going back to Treasury. Now, without being able to clear this, we are unable to say what is the next step,” she said.