The government has confirmed that it is exploring the feasibility of a basic income grant for South Africa beyond the R350 COVID-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant.
Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu told Parliament on Wednesday that demand for the SRD grant will go beyond its six-month period.
She said, “To address this, the Department is working on policy proposal on the feasibility of an income support to South Africans between the ages of 18-59 who have no income support.
“This is a result of the introduction of the Special COVID-19 SRD grant that has revived the discussion of the feasibility of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) as was recommended by the Taylor Report in 2002.”
ANC NEC decision
The revelation follows a decision by the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) last week to look at the grant’s modalities.
“The NEC tasked the Social Transformation Committee and the Economic Transformation Committee to urgently meet and look at the feasibility and detailed modalities of a basic income grant, including costing and financing of this measure, and to report to the Officials and National Working Committee (NWC),” ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule said.
Citing an ANC discussion document, a Bloomberg report published before the NEC meeting said the party was considering a grant amount of R500.
“COVID-19 has weakened and undermined the resilience and survival strategies of low and no-income households. The social, economic and political costs of not introducing a basic income grant in South Africa are more disastrous than the actual monetary costs,” the paper reportedly argued.
According to the paper, the basic income grant would cost the government R197.8 billion per year. It proposed recouping 50-60 percent of this amount from extra taxes on those who are employed.
SRD grant payments
Bogopane-Zulu also said as of 6 July, the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) had paid 3,019,102 SRD grant applicants out of 7,542,049 applications. This has cost the government more than R1 billion.
She added, “The agency will be reassessing all Special COVID-19 SRD grant applications to ensure that where circumstances of beneficiaries’ income status has changed, the grant can be suspended.
“This will be done so that the entity may only continue paying the grant to eligible persons. In order to clear the backlog on outstanding Special COVID-19 SRD grant payments, SASSA will also be processing reviewed COVID-19 declined grants and respond accordingly.”