The South Africa Institute of Business Accountants (SAIBA) partnered with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry NPC to assist KwaZulu-Natal’s small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in the aftermath of the recent unrest.

The two organisations hosted a webinar featuring experts in various fields of disaster intervention such as Red Cross, Mazars and PPS and have also published a Disaster Planning and Recovery Guide to help SMMEs be better prepared for states of disaster.

The webinar focused on four key areas including the importance of community in times of disaster; putting preventative measures and action plans into place; helping businesses make informed decisions about present and future financial activities in their personal and business capacities; and the tools required to be as effective as possible in times of disaster.

The initiative follows the recent state of disaster that was declared in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is SAIBA and its partners’ way of showing support to SMEs that were hardest hit by the unprecedented looting and damage to property, which according to the South African Property Owners Association, has resulted in an estimated 1 199 retail stores being damaged, approximately 3 000 stores looted and 100 malls set on fire last month.

This has amounted to a R20-billion impact on the KZN economy, as well as a R50-billion impact on the national gross domestic product (GDP), placing about 150 000 jobs at risk and resulting in a loss of income for about 50 000 informal traders.

SAIBA CEO Nicolaas van Wyk says the social unrest has further exacerbated the socio-economic challenges faced by South Africa’s 27-year democracy. “State capture, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has degraded our economy, which until the early 2000’s was doing well and creating thousands of jobs.

“Now, a lack of economic opportunities, sluggish economy and unemployment mean it will be difficult to reduce inequality or eliminate poverty by 2030, in line with the goal of the National Development Plan (NDP 2030).”

He adds that the crisis has highlighted just how important it is for communities to come together to address the harsh realities facing South Africa. “Only a collective effort – and following the country’s Rainbow Nation concept – will help in addressing poverty and inequality, which SAIBA believes can only be eradicated by building a thriving economy.”

With this community focus in mind, the partners joined hands to publish a Disaster Planning and Recovery Guide to give accountants an opportunity to work alongside their clients to be better prepared and mitigate any future threats of a similar nature. It also identifies the importance of highlighting key resources to support businesses in times of need.

“The content in the guide extends beyond the recent looting incidents to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a dire socio-economic impact across the globe. The guide highlights numerous aspects of disaster management such as crisis communication, tax laws in the event of insolvency and security measures to protect property, amongst other pertinent issues that SMMEs have had to navigate in tumultuous periods.”

In addition, SAIBA members have volunteered their accounting services to struggling businesses. They will put theory into practice by supporting SMEs’ efforts to rebuild their businesses, as well as advise them on measures that need to be in place to mitigate threats of a similar nature.