Unlockdown: New Commercial Activities Permitted or Not?

In the last few days government have scrambled to widen the ambit of permitted activities, well in principle at least. Practically speaking it is not the case for the majority of entities registered with the Companies Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).

Annexure B now lists, inter alia:

32. Implementation of payroll systems to the extent that such arrangement has not been made for the lockdown, to ensure timeous payments to workers; and

33. Critical maintenance services which cannot be delayed for more than 21 days and are essential to resume operations after lockdown.

All existing ‘permits’ are invalidated with immediate effect and new ‘certificates’ are required to be applied for via CIPC/Bizportal. All that is required, in principle, is the registration number and with it literally anyone can apply.

In practice and as specialists in company and intellectual property law, we are far too au fait with the gremlins which beset this portal.  True to form , following the latest amendments and all too predictable flood of applications, both the CIPC site and Biz hub portal were inaccessible for the most part of Friday—And they remained down at the time of publication.

The majority of lateral thinkers will undoubtedly invent an purpose for themselves and certain staff to slot into 32 or 33 above.  However, the few who have managed to click through, will have encounter list of essential ‘categories’ of trade (rather than ‘functions’ within a business) as first hurdle, insurmountable for most.

Bearing in mind that false declarations are criminalised by the regulations, an overly creative approach is to be cautioned against—Although the likelihood of prosecution is remote at best, consult an attorney if in doubt!

It follows that the above does not apply to sole proprietors and informal traders, not registered with CIPC.  The latter are required to apply to their local municipality (we are told that the queues are longer than usual and we all know how long that is), while the former are apparently and anomalously required to self-approve and ensure staff work in a manner complicit with the regulations—although this is as yet unverified.

The loopholes above are larger than those in England’s world cup final defense and the potential for abuse is endless, with massive risks inherent.

The bottom line is that the process is flawed and begs re-engineering with haste, along with the systems and the regulations, once again!

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