South Africa is among many countries around the globe that are faced with high levels of both unemployment and poverty. This was further exacerbated by the effects of the Covid‐19 pandemic, and it is for this reason that there has an increase in calls for permanent solution for individuals who are in needed of government assistance.
In the previous year, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana declared that the SRD grant received an extension until March 2023 and in the interim, the government continued to consider options for a replacement for the grant. The Department of Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu had also shared that the department has hopes that it will finally implement the Basic Income Grant ﴾BIG﴿, so that people can have something that is much more than R350 in order to survive. Recently, at the 2023 State Of the Nation Address President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that work is underway to develop
‘targeted basic income support’ in South Africa, which is separate from the temporary Social Relief Distress ﴾SRD﴿ grant. In a statement, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union ﴾NEHAWU﴿ has mentioned the following:“
We demand the immediate transition to the Basic Income Grant instead of the current fragment and administratively costly grants system including the SRD Grant. ” The union has also indicated that it strongly believes that the transition to universal basic income grant will provide the deserving individuals with dignified livelihoods and social protection. Although a number of civic society organisations have been vocal and advocating for this type of grant to be introduced in South Africa, researchers from the Centre for Development and Enterprise ﴾CDE﴿ argued that a basic income grant is unaffordable for the country. A Report by the research and consulting firm, Intellidex cautioned that the implementation of this type of grant could cause harm to the country’s economy if not handled properly. CDE Director Ann Bernstein pointed out that the government’s finances are already unsustainable, and adding a large and permanent new spending programme will only make things worse.
Currently, the government is working towards countering the rising cost of living in the country and will continue with the SRD grant as well as increase existing grants to cushion the poor from rising inflation. According to Ramaphosa, the introduction of the BIG support for the most vulnerable will be done within the government’s fiscal constraints. Zulu shared that it’s no longer about whether a basic income grant is needed or not, but the issue of the poverty line is critical for the department and Social Development needs to be able to support its people.