Black Sash Media Statements

OPEN LETTER: Government must extend the Covid-19 SRD grant!

TO:                    THE MINISTER OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
                          Honourable Minister Lindiwe Zulu
Care of:           Ms Zama Kumalo; Ms Monica Zabo; Ms Lumka Olifant

COPIED TO:   THE SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIAL SECURITY AGENCY (SASSA)
CEO:                 Ms Busisiwe Memela-Khambula
Care of:            Mr Paseka Letsatsi

AND TO:         PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
                          His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa

AND TO:         THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
                          Honourable Minister Tito Titus Mboweni
Care of:           Ms Mary Marumo

Thursday, 22 April 2021

RE: Terminating the COVID-19 SRD grant at the end of April 2021 would be a betrayal of the constitutional obligation to provide social assistance to those who are unable to provide for themselves.

It is unacceptable that the government intends to terminate the R350 COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant since the reason for its existence has remained unchanged as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.  The government has just extended the COVID-19 loan guarantee scheme to businesses. Support for households through income transfers is equally important and has been proven to benefit the poorest. At the heart of our call, is the constitutional obligation by the state to reduce poverty and inequality.  Failure to do so will increase suffering and further violate the human dignity of the most vulnerable. Instead of terminating the grant, we are writing to the Presidency, National Treasury, Ministry of Social Development and SASSA calling for the:

  • Extension of the COVID-19 SRD Grant until government provides permanent social assistance for those between 18 and 59 years
  • Increase of the COVID-19 SRD Grant to at least the Food Poverty Line, currently R585
  • Eligibility of recipients of the Child Support Grant (CSG), 95% of whom are women, to receive the COVID-19 SRD Grant
  • Expansion of the eligibility criteria and addressing administrative inefficiencies including the appeals process and the use of outdated verification databases
  • A more effective communication strategy with applicants and beneficiaries
  • Urgently implement the long overdue Basic Income Grant for those aged 18 to 59 years with no to little income
  • While there are various proposals for a Basic Income Grant, permanent Basic Income Support must be progressively increased to match at the very least, the Upper-Bound Poverty Line, currently R1,268.

Another termination date for the COVID-19 SRD grant looms on 30 April 2021. Terminating this grant will be premature and reckless. The COVID-19 grant remains a significant lifeline to almost seven million beneficiaries, and many more dependants, in a context of high unemployment levels, growing food insecurity and child hunger. Since the pandemic is far from over and mass vaccinations have not yet begun, its termination will have long term negative effects well beyond the pandemic. There is still no indication how long it will take to achieve population immunity and more waves of infections are expected, which is likely to be followed by tighter lockdown restrictions.

Women, as individuals in their own right, are still unjustly excluded from social protection measures. The NIDS-CRAM wave 3 study found that in October 2020, only 37% of the COVID-19 SRD grant recipients were women even though they are still ‘over-represented in total unemployment’. The NIDS-CRAM study further shows that the proportion of households running out of money to buy food rose to a shocking 41% and  the number of households where a child has gone hungry at least once in a week rose to 16%, following the termination of the Caregiver Grant in October 2020.

Over 11 million people are unemployed, using the broad definition. It is impossible to create enough jobs in the foreseeable future for all these unemployed and therefore the prospect of full employment, as an alternative to social protection, is a myth. Increasing employment and increasing social protection must be combined, and are complementary.

The socio-economic impacts of the crisis on the mental health of people should no longer be underestimated. There are now about 23 suicides in South Africa a day. A number of these cases are linked to unemployment and the harrowing conditions facing many communities across the country. Job creation programmes must be complemented with income support measures and the delivery of quality socio-economic services.

We requested an urgent meeting to discuss the imminent termination of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant on 31 January 2021 after requests were made to meet on 25 January 2021, 28 January 2021 and 17 February 2021. We still have not heard back from government and as yet another termination date (30 April 2021) for this important grant looms, we want to reiterate that we are long past the time for piecemeal temporary extensions.

We would once again like to request an urgent meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Tito Mboweni, Minister Lindiwe Zulu and CEO of SASSA, Busisiwe Memela - Khambula to discuss our concerns and ensure the indefinite extension of this grant until we have a legislative and policy framework as well as a secured budget for the implementation of a Universal Basic Income Guarantee (UBIG). This Open Letter is endorsed by 86 civil society organisations. A further 180 organisations and individuals have endorsed the #PayTheGrants campaign. If we are still ignored, we will be compelled to consider other options.

Our country will be judged by how the most marginalised, who are also the majority, are supported by the government through this pandemic. The need to prioritise social protection as an investment in our future, and not as a cost or burden, has never been greater.

This letter is endorsed by:

  1. Act Ubumbano
  2. Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
  3. Albert Luthuli Human Rights Advice Centre
  4. Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)
  5. Amandla.mobi
  6. Archdiocese of Durban Justice and Peace Commission
  7. Assembly of Unemployed
  8. Beaufort West Advice Office
  9. Bench Marks Foundation
  10. Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Graduate School of Business
  11. Black Sash
  12. Bohlabela Advice Centre in Mpumalanga
  13. Botshabelo Unemployment Movement
  14. Cancer Alliance
  15. Cash Transfers Working Group of the C19 Peoples Coalition (#paythegrants)
  16. Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
  17. Centre for Environmental Rights
  18. Children in Distress (CINDI)
  19. Community Advice Offices South Africa (CAOSA)
  20. Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
  21. Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC)
  22. Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
  23. Democracy Development Program
  24. Dirang Ka Kagiso (Community Home Based Care)
  25. Dirang Ka Kagiso (Wellness Center)
  26. Dullah Omar Institute
  27. Environmental Monitoring Group
  28. Equal Education
  29. Groundwork
  30. Heidelberg Advice & Development Centre (HADCEN)
  31. Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust
  32. Ikamva Labantu
  33. Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape (PLAAS)
  34. Institute for Economic Justice
  35. Interchurch Local Development Agency
  36. The International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG)
  37. Jersey Farm Advice and Information Centre
  38. Ketekani Community Project
  39. Kgothatsanang organisation
  40. Khutsong Youth Friendly Service
  41. Kwafene Advice office
  42. Lawyers For Human Rights
  43. Legal Resources Centre
  44. Mamadi Advice Center
  45. Mariann Coordinating Committee (MCC)
  46. Matlosana Development Forum
  47. Middelburg Development and Advice Office
  48. Muslim Judicial Council
  49. Ndifuna Ukwazi
  50. Open Secrets
  51. Organised for Work
  52. Oxfam South Africa
  53. People’s Health Movement South Africa
  54. Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group
  55. Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI)
  56. Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)
  57. Refugee Social Services
  58. Right2Know
  59. Riversdale Advice and Community Development Agency
  60. Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town
  61. Section 27
  62. Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition (SRJC)
  63. Shayisfuba Feminist Collective
  64. Sisterhood Movement
  65. Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT)
  66. Social Justice Coalition
  67. Social Work Action Network South Africa
  68. Sonke Gender Justice
  69. South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU)
  70. South African Federation Trade Unions (SAFTU)
  71. South African Food Sovereignty Campaign
  72. South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO)
  73. Southern African Social Policy Research Institute NPC
  74. Standerton Victim Empowerment and Advice Office
  75. Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII)
  76. Triangle Project
  77. Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE)
  78. Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement
  79. Unemployed United Front (UUF)
  80. Vianney Child and Youth Care Centre
  81. Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability
  82. Women Hope for the Nation
  83. Women on Farms Project
  84. Women’s Legal Centre
  85. Workers' World Media Productions (WWMP)
  86. Zenzeleni Project