JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s landlords have increased and extended temporary rent reductions for retailers whose shops have been closed by the country’s lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a 21-day lockdown on March 26, banning all but essential workers from leaving home except to buy food or medicine and closing all non-essential shops. He later extended the lockdown by two weeks to the end of April.
While a partial re-opening of clothing and other non-essential stores is planned from May 1, demand is expected to be low as cash-strapped shoppers prioritise food and staple goods.
Earlier this month, the Property Industry (PI) group, which gathers together the major representative bodies for South Africa’s real estate industry, announced a package of assistance and relief for the retail sector as proposed by the government.
This included rent discounts of 35% to 100% for small to medium-sized enterprises and 15% to 35% for all non-essential retailers for two months.
On Tuesday, it said that following the extension to the lockdown it was now offering non-essential, medium-sized to large retailers rent discounts of 60% to 70%, as well as a rent deferments of 40% to 50% for three months from April.
Meanwhile, highly-to-moderately affected retailers such as restaurants, hairdressers and movie theatres will be offered 50% to 100% rent discounts and up to 45% rent deferments.
“The initiative targets preserving jobs - for retailers, their suppliers and service providers – and to qualify for the relief benefits, retail tenants will need to undertake not to retrench staff during the relief period,” the PI said.
The plan follows the publication of government rules allowing landlords and tenants to negotiate lower rents or rent holidays - a move seen as giving state endorsement for further relief measures.
Shopping centres are the nexus of South Africa’s consumer-driven economy, accounting for 789 billion rand (33.93 billion pounds), or about 72%, of annual retail sales, according to the PI.
“We need to stand together and find workable solutions that will benefit the country, protect jobs, and sustain our businesses through this challenging time,” PI spokesperson and Chairman of the SA REIT Association Estienne de Klerk said.
“We believe what we are offering is balanced and addresses some of the key issues on both sides. It is an equitable way to protect both industries and, very importantly, looks after the drivers of employment creation - the SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises).”
Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Mark Potter