The much-anticipated Basic Income Grant could be coming soon to South Africa, but the argument of those against the grant is that it is unaffordable. However, there may be a solution on the horizon.
Social grants are a lifeline for millions of people in South Africa, helping them to afford their most basic needs. A petition for the Basic Income Grant to be made permanent has now been in discussion for a long time, and has been handed over to the Minister of Social Development.
The Need For A Basic Income Grant
The implementation of the Basic Income Grant (BIG) was given the go-ahead by the Department of Social Development (DSD) back in February but no official word has been given yet.
Advocates for the grant to be introduced have been ongoing, with the calls growing more urgent following the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the livelihoods of a large percentage of South Africans.
Millions of South Africans find themselves living in extreme poverty, with social grant money being their only source of income and means of survival.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) currently provides several types of grants to eligible members of society, including the Old Age Grant, Child Support Grant and Disability Grant, among others. However, calls for a more permanent solution to the country’s ongoing economic struggles such as the rising cost of living, have grown louder.
It was announced that the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, which was initially introduced as a temporary relief to the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, could possibly be introduced as the Basic Income Grant. However, roll-out has been slow-moving.
In 2022, more than 20 million people relied on the SRD grant, which distributes R350 on a monthly basis to approved beneficiaries.
In 2023, the DSD has been focusing on poverty alleviation, setting aside a large portion of its annual budget to combat this challenge, which only seems to be growing as the inequality gap widens. One of these strategies is in the form of the Basic Income Grant (BIG).
Restructuring the budget to afford the Basic Income Grant
Many of the BIG’s pushback revolves around the unaffordability of implementing the grant, and the lack of money to ensure its sustainability. But, the reality is that with so many South Africans battling unemployment and poverty, bigger monetary assistance from the state can be key to meeting their basic needs.
Brett Herron, Secretary General of the Good Party, says there is both a legal and a moral obligation for the government to provide this grant, which will provide more than R350, to the millions in need.
The Government has a constitutional obligation to care for its people, and while a shocking number of our people are unable to afford basic goods and services, it is evident that this commitment is not being fulfilled.
Herron adds that to give this grant of R999 to people who are living below the lower-bound poverty line would cost roughly R110 billion, which is less than one percent of the country’s total annual expenditure.
He says that based on their research, there are ways to restructure the budget to make the BIG a viable possibility.
We are asking the government to dig deep and find less than one percent of their total spend.
Petition For A Permanent Basic Income Grant
Black Sash, a South African human rights organisation, handed over a memorandum and petition to the Minister of the Department of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, on Tuesday.
The petition includes more than 330 000 signatures from across the country and has been handed over to the Minister of the DSD, Lindiwe Zulu, the National Treasury, the Minister of Finance and President Ramaphosa.
This petition calls for the Government to immediately introduce Basic Income Support for unemployed South Africans between the ages of 18 and 59 years old.
Black Sash demands that the Government implement permanent social assistance for unemployed and eligible South Africans, considering the soaring cost of living and the catastrophic impact of the pandemic.
South Africa’s unemployment rate currently stands at 32,9%, with an even more concerning youth unemployment rate of 63,9% for those aged 15-24 and 42,1% for those aged 25-34 years.
The Importance Of The Basic Income Grant
Additionally, Minister of the Department of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, believes that aside from providing financial assistance to the country’s most vulnerable individuals, the implementation of the grant could also encourage economic growth.
South Africa is currently wrestling with a multitude of issues that have ravaged the economy, including the aftermath of the pandemic, decade-and-a-half-long loadshedding troubles that has become a full-blown energy crisis and a terrifying violent crime rate.
The effects of these struggles have left millions of South Africans and their families without employment and battling to make ends meet.
At this stage, no further information has been released concerning a roll-out date or a grant amount.