The Black Sash notes President Cyril Ramaphosa taking on the enormous task of dealing with State Capture and corruption. In his SONA speech he says: “Where there is a basis to prosecute, prosecutions must follow swiftly and stolen public funds must be recovered urgently.” This is a space we will be watching.
We are however, troubled by the fact that South Africa entered 2019 with an unemployment rate of 27,5% (narrow definition, the expanded definition has a figure of 39,4%). Almost 9 million people are unable to find work and research suggests that the 4th industrial revolution has a negative effect on the unemployed and the poorest of the poor.
In light of the above the creation of 250 000 jobs per annum is hugely insufficient; using this trajectory means it would take 36 years to employ the currently unemployed. What about the new job seekers coming into the labour market during this time? Black Sash National Director Ms Lynette Maart says: “The current Comprehensive Social Security strategy before NEDLAC does not make provision for the 18 – 59 year cohort, who are unemployed. We call for urgent income support for this sector of our society.”
Government is not doing nearly enough to meet its obligation to its citizens in terms of Section 27. 1 (c) of the Constitution, which states that government must take reasonable legislative measures to achieve the progressive realization of: “Social security, including if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, appropriate social assistance.”
The president noted that the Department of Social Development (SASSA) honoured the Constitutional Court directive to terminate the services of Cash Paymaster Services. It is a step in the right direction. The migration to SAPO provides grant beneficiaries with a ringfenced bank account which safeguards them from unlawful debit order and USSD debit order platform deductions. But SAPO still has miles to go and significant challenges to address.
It is clear that SAPO is yet to develop the human and infrastructural capacity to service 17, 5 million beneficiaries countrywide. There are significant problems around the reopening of decommissioned paypoints – Beneficiaries are still not getting the full cash value of their grants. They are travelling long distances at great cost with challenges to their personal safety. At SAPO offices and retailers they face cash shortages, long queues, poor security, no toilets and fraud. While at ATMs they pay extra charges.
The SONA speech covered a wide range of topics but the actual steps to poverty alleviation may be lost in the detail and the Black Sash will definitely ‘watch this space’.