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Millions of South Africans may lose out on their R350 April grant payment

Many eligible people have likely missed out on their April Social Relief of Distress grant payment, a group of civil society partners have said. File Image: IOL

Many eligible people have likely missed out on their April Social Relief of Distress grant payment, a group of civil society partners have said. File Image: IOL

Published Apr 26, 2022

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Many eligible people have likely missed out on their April Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant payment, after DSD and the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) halted application processing for April without explanation, despite the fact that they were clearly mandated under transitional measures gazetted on April 4.

This is according to a joint statement by civil society partners the Black Sash, #PayTheGrants, Social Policy Initiative and the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ).

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The statement said that under new regulations released last Friday afternoon, hundreds of thousands may now find themselves disqualified from assistance they have relied on to survive.

“Treasury and the DSD are pulling the rug out from underneath a significant number of the most vulnerable, without warning or consultation,” the statement said.

According to the groups, Friday’s gazetted regulations bring the SRD grant out of the national state of disaster introduced under the pandemic, and into the Social Assistance Act.

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Grant beneficiaries who had been expecting to receive their entitlements for April will now need to reapply under new restricted eligibility criteria. However, the regulations explicitly state that applications must be lodged before the 15th of the month.

“It appears that by suspending April processing and payments, and now wiping the slate clean of previously approved grant obligations, the April SRD grants are in jeopardy for millions of South Africans. While Treasury and the DSD may have saved themselves a lot of money in April, this will be at the expense of the poor, and together with other aspects of the regulations is a violation of the President’s State of the Nation Address commitment.”

The groups are urgently calling for clarity from the DSD as to whether those who were previously approved to receive a payment in April will still receive this payment regardless of whether their new application is approved, and also whether those who apply under the new framework will be back paid for April.

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“Moreover, and even more egregious, the published regulations have dropped the income eligibility threshold for the SRD from the food poverty line (R624), to R350—meaning people are now only eligible to receive the SRD grant if their income is below R350 per month”, the group said.

“That is shocking, inhumane, regressive, and leaves millions of people living below the food poverty line ineligible for government assistance. This also means that hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries who previously fell below the threshold and qualified, will now not qualify for the SRD grant under the reduced threshold. We believe that this retrogression of rights that has already been established and provided for will not sustain legal challenge.”

The group wrote to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, and the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, last Friday ahead of the announcement of the new regulations, requesting an urgent update on the status of payments and application processing of the SRD grant, and demanding that immediate provisions be made for the continued payment of the grant to beneficiaries, as well as resumed application processing.

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“We requested that the department engage with us on the serious concerns we raised to the draft regulations which will govern the future administration of the SRD grant. Many of these concerns have not been addressed in the now published regulations, and in fact the final regulations are a huge step backwards on what was contained previously — it is an open secret that this is a result of Treasury’s intransigence in refusing to even agree to the timid provisions in the draft regulations.

“We also raised in our correspondence the need to take timely action to ensure that basic income support is in place for the most vulnerable following the expiry of the current SRD grant in March 2023.”

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