Sassa says it has no mandate to extend R350 grant
Despite growing calls for the extension of the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) says it has no mandate to extend it.
The grant was introduced last year by President Cyril Ramphosa as part of social relief initiatives aimed at tackling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The grant has seen millions of unemployed South Africans benefit.
Earlier this year, when the grant was extended by Ramaphosa for a further three months, Sassa said it had processed over 9 million applications each month since May last year. In January it had paid more than 6.5 million grants a month. The total expenditure had exceeded R16 billion, the agency said.
Sassa issued a short statement last Thursday insisting that the grant was coming to an end on April 30 and that those applications still not processed would still be paid.
The introduction of the SRD grant has seen snaking queues outside the country's post offices becoming a regular feature. Lines have been filled with people seeking assistance in applying for the grant.
Despite the end of the grant being set, many civil society organisations have gained strength in the calls for a basic income grant. While the idea of a basic income has been endorsed by the Government, it's unclear when it would be implemented.
Under the banner of #paythegrants, civil society organisations representing various groups have called for the extension of the SRD grant. Amandla, a campaign focused organisation, said it had collected over 40 000 signatures from people calling for the SRD grant to be extended.
A petition was delivered to the Union Buildings on Friday. Representatives of #paythegrants have said they yet to receive responses to letters sent to the Treasury, Sassa and the Presidency.
The organisations said the social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic remains.
"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," #paythegrants said.
In a statement on Monday, regarding questions on whether the government was considering extending the SDS grant, Sassa said it had no mandate from the Department of Social Development to do so.
"Currently there is no official directive from the minister to implement an extension. It is a known fact that millions of unemployed people have benefited from this Special COVID-19 grant and we believe when there is a decision taken for Sassa to implement we will adhere in line with our mandate as contained in the South African Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004," said Sandy Godlwana, a senior communication and marketing manager at Sassa.