Civil groups meet Ramaphosa in hopes of making R350 grant permanent & higher

According to Black Sash, in the absence of the grant, poverty would have been 5% higher among the poorest households

FILE: Social distancing is enforced at a shopping centre where social grant recipients are collecting their payouts on 30 March 2020. Picture: @The_DSD/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Civil society organisations have made another appeal to government to keep and increase the South African Social Security Agency's (Sassa) COVID-19 social distress R350 grant, which has been paid out to millions of citizens in need.

Organisations such as Black Sash, Amandlamobi, #PayTheGrants and the Institute for Economic Justice last week met with President Cyril Ramphosa, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana - who is set to deliver his maiden Budget Speech - in February and will detail whether government has room to keep accommodating the grant or not.

The grant currently offers support to about 10.3 million recipients.

In the meeting, Ramaphosa expressed his deep concern around the hardship faced by the more than 13 million unemployed and impoverished citizens in the country and the need for government to tackle poverty while being mindful of the resource base.

According to Black Sash, in the absence of the grant, poverty would have been 5% higher among the poorest households, and receipt of SRD increased the likelihood of job search by 25 percentage points. About 36 million people benefited directly or indirectly from the grant.

The organisation expressed concern that the grant's extension was not accounted for in the 2021 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, raising the question of whether the same will happen in the upcoming Budget Speech.

"Our main recommendations include: immediately extending the COVID-19 SRD grant, expanding its eligibility criteria to reach more people, and increasing the amount to at least the food poverty line (currently R624)," said Black Sash.

While the president and ministers did not make any solid commitments with regards to the proposals, they did agree to have further engagement on the proposals as part of broader consultation among all stakeholders on social protection measures that are appropriate to the country’s circumstances and the needs of South Africans.