Cape Town - The government will have to find billions in this month’s adjustment budget if it is to pacify a group of more than 80 civil society groups who have demanded that it extend the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant until March.
Yesterday, the activists, who include former public protector Thuli Madonsela and general secretary of the SA Federation of Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, called on the government to urgently rethink its decision to terminate various Covid-19 social relief measures, including the caregiver grant, which they want increased.
During a virtual press conference, Shaeera Kalla of the Institute for Economic Justice said stopping the grants would be “irresponsible and reprehensible given the socio-economic realities of the country”.
“Based on available estimates and assumptions of 5.6million and 7.1million respectively (at current levels of access), the extension of the SRD grant and caregiver grant at R585 per month will cost a combined R37billion. At a fraction of spending proposals under consideration, this is a clear test of whether the government puts the interests of capital before people,” said Kalla.
Madonsela, the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University, said: “When finances are low, of course the poor are always the first to be considered dispensable.
“We applaud the government, which was hit by the coronavirus at a time when it was on its knees with regards to the economic downturn, the consequences of corruption and generally a slow growing economy. Despite all this, it managed to extend these grants and look after the most vulnerable in society.
“It will be tough to keep the grants going in an economy that has not just been battered by Covid-19 and the lockdown rules, but by corruption, fraud and all sorts of maladministration including apartheid."
Vavi said: “We’ve seen 2.2 million workers lose their jobs, adding to the 10.8million who were already unemployed. You can just imagine the devastating impact this has had, in particular on women, in our society.”
Last week, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said in an SABC interview her department had proposed an extension of the SRD grant until the end of the financial year.
DA Western Cape spokesperson on social development Gillion Bosman said: “Covid-19 grant payments must be extended, paid on time.”
“Although the grant is to expire this month, it is undeniable that we are at the peak of the second pandemic of unemployment and poverty. With expanded unemployment at 42% and youth unemployment nearing the 50% mark, the R350 grant may very well mean the difference between survival and starvation,” said Bosman.
ANC provincial spokesperson on social development Gladys Bakubaku-Vos said: “We wish to commend the efforts of the national Social Development minister, who is also pushing to have the grant extended until the financial year end."
EFF provincial deputy chairperson Nosipho Makamba-Botya said: “The unemployment income grant that was introduced to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, (should) be increased to at least R1000 and be made permanent.”