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 handed over to the Minister of Social Development.
The Need For A Basic Income Grant
The implementation of the Basic Income Grant was given the go-ahead by the Department of Social Development (DSD) back in February. 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.
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, have grown louder.
The Social Relief of Distress Grant, better known as the SRD or R350 grant, was implemented during the pandemic as a measure to provide temporary financial relief to those who were unemployed. The SRD grant has sparked conversations regarding a more permanent solution for unemployed South Africans.
It was announced that the SRD grant would now be introduced as the Basic Income Grant, however, roll-out has been slow-moving. In 2022, more than 20 million people relied on this grant.
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.
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 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.
Furthermore, Black Sash demands that the Basic Income Grant be in line with the Food Poverty Line, at R663 per month.
Lastly, the organisation calls on the Government to acknowledge and prioritise the challenges faced by beneficiaries when trying to access their grants each month.
Month after month, grant recipients face difficulties when collecting their grants, such as system glitches, payment delays, long queues as well as inclusion and exclusion errors. For low-income households who have to pay for transportation to collect their payments, a delay of just one day can set them back weeks.
Black Sash urgently appeals to government to take this memorandum seriously and recognise the call of those living in South Africa for the petition signatory’s voices to be heard.
The Importance Of The Basic Income Grant
Additionally, Minister Zulu believes that aside from providing financial assistance to 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.