The massive treasure trove of R20 billion set aside for the Department of Health to help South Africa weather the deadly COVID-19 storm could trigger a war among businesspeople.

Sunday World reports that black businesses allege that they have been sidelined in the allocation of multimillion-rand contracts for sourcing equipment for the fight against COVID-19.

The much-sought-after equipment includes ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Black businesses are represented by the Black Business Council (BBC).

“We have noticed some actions by those who are against economic transformation of trying to sideline black-and-women-owned suppliers,” said BBC CEO Kganki Matabane.

“We have subsequently raised this matter with people who are responsible for procurement – government, Business for South Africa, and the Solidarity Fund.”

Sunday World quotes an unnamed businessman as saying: “What’s concerning for me is the racism behind the whole fight.

“The black poor are fighting for food parcels in the townships while our government sits by idly … while white business benefits billions from a fund created by the president,” the businessman said.

“As black business, we must wait like children, to be allowed in so we can participate.

“It’s grossly unfair. You go check the facts, you will find that many of us are made to wait for too long to be vetted before we can have a small piece of the billions.”

Stavos Nicolaou, who heads B4SA’s public health workgroup, reportedly told the Sunday World that his firm procured PPEs “from global suppliers”.

“It does this in collaboration with all members, including the BBC and in partnership with the National Department of Health and National Treasury,” Nicolaou was quoted as saying.

Nicolaou added that the organisation had already received 4 500 potential local suppliers, and the “procurement team has onboarded almost 50” of these in the last nine days.

B4SA was formed in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and includes the BBC and Business Unity South Africa.

The organisation has workstreams that deal with funding from the government and the Solidarity Fund.

For more read: War over corona billions looming

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