Public Protector, Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, has sounded a warning about the potential of South Africa becoming a welfare state, with the ever increasing number of people who rely on social grants.
Gcaleka said in a country where millions of people depended on social grants, it leads to low economic growth.
She said South Africa could not be proud that millions of its people depended on the government’s social security system.
Over 18 million people receive the old-age, disability, child support and foster care grants. Another eight million receive the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.
The SRD grant was introduced in 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19 and government has extended it several times.
Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, announced in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in November that the SRD grant would be extended until 2025 while government was reviewing it.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has said they were considering the Basic Income Grant.
However, civil society and other parties want the basic income grant to be above R350, saying it was currently not in line with inflation.
Gcaleka, who was addressing the FW d Klerk Foundation annual conference in Cape Town on Friday said the country had made progress over the last 30 years.
But there were still a number of challenges.
She was concerned that the country could become a welfare state based on the number of people on social grants.
“The living conditions in South Africa are so that the social grants are on the increase. Personally, I do not think that is something to be proud of as a country. It leads to the decline in the economy, because it means we are becoming a social (welfare) state. with most people unemployed,” said Gcaleka.
On service delivery, she said she had seen the report from the Statistician-General that shows an improvement in the lives of people, including the provision of basic services.
But there was still a lot of work to be done in some of the areas. This is reflected in the work they have done where there was lack of basic services in provinces like the Eastern Cape.
“Looking at the service delivery aspect, I have mentioned that the Statistician-General says there is improvement. However, we continue to issue reports and one of them is on the state of service delivery in the Eastern Cape… it gives us a picture that we cannot be proud of, where human being still drink in dams where animals drink,” said Gcaleka.
There was also a crisis of poverty that needs to be addressed.
Many people continued to live in poverty.
“Approximately 55.5% of the population is still living in poverty at the national upper poverty line while a total of 13.8m people (25%) are experiencing food poverty. Poverty nonetheless remains a key developmental challenge in social, economic and political terms, not only in our country but it is what most of the developing world is struggling with,” said Gcaleka.
This situation forces many people to move to major cities to seek work opportunities. But they end up clogging the infrastructure and this leads to the mushrooming of informal settlements.