05 September 2020

Issued on behalf of C19 People’s Coalition: Cash Transfers subgroup. The #PayTheGrants campaign is an initiative of the C19 People’s Coalition.

We say no to the termination of the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant in October! #PayTheGrants until we have a basic income guarantee for all.

The #PayTheGrants campaign urges the government to continue its work in fixing the inefficiencies around Sassa’s implementation of the Covid-19 R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant. From the latest Sassa figures in mid-August 4.4-million people have received the grant out of almost 9-million who have applied and up to 15-million who would qualify to receive assistance. This means that more than half of those who applied have been denied or have received no response on their status. 

Despite the huge backlog in payments, the grant has attempted to meet the massive and urgent need created by the pandemic. The latest NIDS CRAM data indicates devastating and persistent job loss of up to half of all employment, with the worst effects on black poor women, and leading to severe increases in poverty. We reiterate: All of the evidence, from surveys to reports from our own communities, stresses that this pandemic is far from over. The fact that the grant has remained a temporary measure which will come to an end in October is an urgent concern to which we request a formal response from the Department of Social Development. 

With the government only dedicating 10% of the stimulus package to grants we have already been on the backfoot in helping people to survive this global crisis. The dire socio-economic conditions we find ourselves in require at a bare minimum the continuation of an improved rollout of the Covid R350 SRD grant. The government cannot justify ‘fiscal discipline’ over saving livelihoods when we have a population with 54% living below the working poverty line of R5 180 per month, with one in every two people below the poverty line and chronic structural and intergenerational unemployment. 

In a statement from June which was supported by several community organisations, we demanded:

  • A larger grant – R350 is far below what people need to survive.
  • Dropping exclusion criteria, especially caregivers of children and migrants.
  • The rollout of a communication strategy: the application process remains incoherent and inaccessible.

While the rollout of the grant has improved, there are still many inadequacies. The zero-rating of the Covid grant means that Sassa has been denying the grant to people with any money in their account despite the Covid-19 SRD grant being below the lower bound food poverty line of R580. It is unclear if those who have received the grant were also given back pay for the months of delay that they had to endure, facing hunger and destitution, while also trying to protect themselves and their families from the pandemic. There is also no clear appeals process for those who are rejected to follow. These urgent issues must be addressed. 

Until we have comprehensive social security reform which includes a basic income guarantee that is universal, unconditional and redistributive, there is a moral and economic obligation for progressive cash transfers, which we have seen being implemented all over the world to help save lives. There can be no recovery without meaningful redistribution. 

You can join our Facebook page PayTheGrants South Africa, follow us on Twitter @PayTheGrants, share your story on Whatsapp 065 282 1793. or e-mail us at paythegrants@gmail.com.