Labour federation COSATU has urged the government to make the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant permanent and to increase it to R624.
‘Increase SRD grant to food poverty level’
“The extension of the R350 SRD grant will provide welcome relief for more than 10 million unemployed persons receiving it. It needs to be made permanent and linked to the food poverty level of R624. It provides a foundation for a Basic Income Grant,” the federation said.
In his address to the nation announcing the end of disaster regulations, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that some transitional provisions will remain for 30 days.
Among those are directions enabling the government to fund the R350 SRD grant. During the transition period, the Department of Social Development will publish new directions to keep the grant in place until March 2023.
There is uncertainty on whether or not the grant will continue after March 2023. The ANC has previously urged the government to consider “some form of assistance” once the grant lapses, with a basic income grant being mooted.
SACP joins calls
Over the weekend, the South African Communist Party (SACP) also called for a basic income grant after its three-day Central Committee meeting.
“Instead of terminating the SRD grant at the end of the first quarter of 2023, the government should maintain the grant and consider improving it gradually towards a universal basic income grant, as part of building a comprehensive social security system. This is what the continuing unemployment crisis calls for in the here and now,” the party’s General Secretary Dr Blade Nzimande said.
Last year, an Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support recommended a gradual introduction of a basic income grant. The panel was established jointly by the government, International Labour Organisation and UN’s Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund.
However, Finance Minister has maintained that a permanent extension of the SRD grant, or the introduction of a basic income grant, can only happen if the government’s fiscal situation improves.
“In a context of overstretched public finances and persistently high unemployment, the continuation of such a social transfer must be matched by a combination of permanent spending reductions and tax revenue increases,” he said in the Budget Review published in February.
Reports suggest that Ramaphosa and Godongwana are at odds regarding this matter, with the President keen on providing further assistance to South Africa’s unemployed beyond next year.