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 MBABANE – The country is in the spotlight, as more of its SACU counterparts are launching relief schemes to cushion businesses from the impact of the coronavirus and lockdowns.

SACU is the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and it is made up of the country, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. While the relief packages are undoubtedly headlined by South Africa’s R500 billion stimulus, smaller countries like Lesotho have come to the party.

Despite having no reported coronavirus case at the time of compiling this report, the latter yesterday launched a M500 million (about E500 million) Covid-19 Economic Relief Fund to help private companies affected by the lockdown. In addition, the Lesotho government will also avail M450 million to expand the credit guarantee facilities through the Lesotho National Development Corporation.

Not to be outdone, the Botswana government has established the Covid-19 Pandemic Relief Fund with capitalisation of P2 billion. In supporting workers, Botswana will provide a wage subsidy totalling P1 billion with the objective of assisting businesses to retain employees.  Government will also contribute 50 per cent of basic salary of employees of affected businesses as well as offer a subsidy for employees ranging between P1 000 and P2 500 per month for three months (April, May and June 2020).

Interestingly, some of the measures have nothing to do with the size of the economy.  In South Africa for instance, R130 billion of this funding will come from reprioritisation of the budget. The rest will be funded internally and externally – including approaching the World Bank, (International Monetary Fund (IMF), Development Bank and others.

South Africa is entitled to as much as US$4.2 billion (over E78 billion) in emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund should it request financial support to fight the coronavirus. “R20 billion will be made available to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless,” announced South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday night.


The country, on the other hand, is yet to launch a major relief scheme, but there are measures to cushion businesses in distress like the E90 million fund for tax-compliant businesses that have a turnover of E8 million or less.

This will benefit mainly small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The guidelines for applying for the fund were expected to be released by close of business yesterday. Minister of Finance Neil Rijkenberg was yet to respond to a message sent to his phone in response to measures, especially those of South Africa, by 1:45pm yesterday. A local economist said some of the measures from the regional counterparts could be matched, especially those relating to taxes and the loan guarantee schemes.

Meanwhile, the country is strengthening its lockdown measures from tomorrow. Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini said government was working on an economic response plan post COVID-19.

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