Political parties have thrown their support behind the planned move by the Department of Social Development to ask the Cabinet to extend the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant for another two years.
While they were wary of the grant being used for electioneering when it is extended after March 2024, some said it should be used as the foundation for the introduction of a Basic Income Grant (BIG), and they also called for growth in the economy and job creation.
This comes after Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu indicated in replying to parliamentary questions from IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe that her department would make a submission to the Cabinet to extend the grant for two years.
Van der Merwe asked about the details of the alternatives that would be put in place to ensure that the state would not create a large-scale hunger crisis when the SRD grant was terminated.
In her response, Zulu said her department has completed and consulted on the draft policy on Basic Income Support as a pathway to address the long-term income needs of vulnerable working age individuals.
“We are now refining the draft, based on the constructive input we have received from various stakeholders with a view to taking the draft policy through the cabinet process in the hope that it will get the necessary support and fiscal commitment to enable its approval for implementation,” Zulu said.
“Given the fact that such a policy, if approved, would require legislative amendments, the department is seeking to petition the cabinet to extend the R350 SRD provision for a further two years to ensure continuation of the much-needed income support, until the more permanent BIS policy can be implemented,” she said.
Van der Merwe said while her party applauded the government’s efforts to keep the R350 grant to keep food on the table for struggling families, it did not go far enough.
“We need a growing economy where families are able to access job opportunities. We need an economy that prioritises job opportunities for South Africans, especially entry-level and no skill job opportunities,” she said.
Van der Merwe also said there was the need to preserve the spaza shop industry, as an example, for South Africans so that families can provide for themselves.
“However, in the absence of that, or in the absence of a government that can ensure a better life for all, a BIG is an urgent necessity.”
She said her party was wondering whether the mention of the BIG was not in line with the ANC election ambitions as President Cyril Ramaphosa commented during a by-election that the governing party was banking on the payment of grants to win them the elections.
“If that is not the case, we call on the government to use the next budget cycle to table the BIG without further delay.”
DA MP Bridget Masango said while her party welcomed the extension of the SRD grant beyond the current financial year, they were wary of it being used as an electioneering tool and thus being unsustainable.
“As for the Basic Income Grant, the DA has proposed a conditional BIG made available from revenue generated from GDP growth, supported by sound economic policy that will create economic growth, get people into jobs, and support small businesses.
“We do not believe in further burdening taxpayers,” she said.
Masango also said only a growing economy would get people out of poverty and into jobs.
“However, we emphasise that it is the role of government to protect the vulnerable while, at the same time, creating the conditions necessary for economic growth.
“In addition, we've also made proposals of extending the zero-VAT rated basket of food and extending the child grant to learners until they've completed matric to not interrupt their education and give them the best chance of future economic success.”
National Freedom Front MP Munzoor Shaik-Emam said his party was in support of the extension of the SRD grant and introduction of the BIG.
“The NFP is of the opinion that this is not sustainable in the long term. What the government needs to do is to address the high cost of living, create an environment for job opportunities to be created in the private sector, limit the cheap imports into the country, enhance the manufacturing sector and boost employment by addressing the high cost of doing business,” Shaik-Emam said.