AN email advertisement went viral on social media inviting local entrepreneurs to apply for aid from a US$500 000 grant as part of the country’s Covid-19 recovery programme.
The email was purportedly from one Annabel Themba, Executive Secretary, in the Department of Local Economic Development who said they had partnered with the International Economic Development Council and Africa Investment Forum to provide working capital and financial aid to locally owned businesses.
Themba said applications for this grant would be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
However, this advertisement was flagged down by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who advised members of the public that the email was false as there was no department in the ministry.
The finance ministry said appropriate action was being taken to identify the origins of the message which was “clearly” crafted to mislead people while a non-existent Economic Empowerment Act and Statutory Instrument were used.
“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has noted with grave concern some messages, which are circulating on social media, inviting entrepreneurs to submit applications for financial aid as part of the economic recovery programme in the wake of Covid-19,” said the ministry in a statement.
“The messages allege that the Department of Local Economic Development has partnered with the International Economic Development Council and Africa Investment Forum to provide financial grants for citizen-owned businesses. Further, the messages cite a non-existent Economic Empowerment Act No.9 of 2020 and SI 36 of 2019, which talks about Financial Services Authority (Regulatory Sandbox Exemption).”
Treasury said the address used on the advertisement suggested a connection with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development yet the department did not exist.
“The public is advised that the Ministry does not have a Department of Local Economic Development and the cited individuals are not Ministry officials. The messages are hereby declared FALSE and should be regarded with the contempt deserved,” said the ministry.
To avoid loss of private information as well as actual and potential financial loss, the Ministry urged the public to ignore any malicious messages and in particular check the authenticity of any information propagated on social media before sharing personal details.
“In order to bring the perpetrators to book, appropriate actions to determine the origins of the messages are being pursued through the relevant law enforcement agencies,” said the ministry.