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Zulu says work under way to pay special Covid-19 grants

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu. File Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu. File Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Published Apr 24, 2020


The Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) on Thursday revealed that work was already under way to develop the criteria for the selection of the unemployed people to benefit from the special Covid-19 grant and its payment.

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced R50 billion to relieve the desperately affected people by the coronavirus. 

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Ramaphosa said a special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant of R350 a month for the next six months would be paid to individuals who were unemployed and did not receive social grant or UIF payment.

Briefing a joint meeting of parliamentary committees, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said they still needed to clarify how the grant would be paid out, among other things.

“What is building up is the criteria for the people who are supposed to get the R350 grant and our capacity to make sure that we have the data and target the right people.

"It is one of the top priorities we have to deal with Sassa and the National Treasury quickly," she told MPs.

"I can guarantee you that we are going to be under pressure because people are hungry out there."

Sassa's executive manager for grants Dianne Dunkerley said they have already developed an electronic system that will allow for beneficiaries to apply online. 

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"The application comes to us and then we approve or reject," Dunkerley said.

The "front end" of the electronic system was to be tested live yesterday, she said.

Dunkerley also said they were working on the "back end" for the electronic system for money transfer that would enable e-wallet or cash send.

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"It will be a much more effective way to send money to people," she said.

Dunkerley added a similar electronic system was being worked out for the social relief of distress that would replace the food parcels, which have become a highly political issue.

The government will introduce e-wallet, cash through banks and e-vouchers.

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A report tabled to the committee said traditional methods of delivering food parcels were not effective. 

There were also several additional risks such as hijacking of trucks delivering food and threats to staff for supporting  some in the community and not the others.

"The view is for us to move away from food parcels to provide cash or e-wallet," Sassa chief executive Busisiwe Memela-Khambula said.

Dunkerley said a number to be dialled for the electronic application for the new grant would be shared with the public and they hoped to finish the development of the system in the coming days.

"Early May, we will be able to start to pay the first amounts," Dunkerley said, adding the electronic application would be for the six months the grant would last as opposed to monthly applications.

Earlier, the MPs heard that the R50 billion announced by Ramaphosa came as the department had made a request to National Treasury for additional money because of fears of worsening of poverty and risk to children amid closure of schools and early childhood development centres and those without income in the informal sector because of the lockdown.

Ramaphosa this week also announced the increase of child support grant beneficiaries would receive an additional R300 in May and from June to October R500 while other grants would be topped up with R250.

Deputy director general for comprehensive social services Brenda Sibeko said part of what Ramaphosa announced formed part of their request for more funds to augment social grants for recipients and those covered by UIF.

"We were very pleased with the generosity of the president to increase all the grants to make sure we augment income of all different households," Sibeko said.

Responding to a question of continuing with the Covid-19 grant to realise the once proposed  basic income grant, she said it was something that was considered at Nadlac.

"Ultimately there must be a funding platform. It is a conversation we need to have," Sibeko said.

Political Bureau

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