Letter to the President: Extend the Grants

 In Member statements

25 January 2021

Dear Mr President,

We write to you at a time when you are understandably grief stricken at the loss of Honourable Minister Jackson Mthembu. We send you our sincere condolences, many of us interacted with comrade Jackson in civil society spaces and were struck by his humility and warmth. We hope we can honour his memory in continuing the fight for a more democratic South Africa, one that is attuned to the needs of the most vulnerable amongst us.

It is in this spirit Mr President that we request your ear in a meeting to discuss the imminent termination – from the end of January 2021- of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants which has been a small but important policy that has helped millions of families put food on the table in a year of massive job losses and suffering. Towards the end of last year we came together as the social justice sector to request the extension of the COVID-19 SRD grant as well as the Caregiver Grant, and were supported by more than 160 organisations and individuals.

We were pleased  that  government responded to our call in part and extended the COVID-19 SRD grant, but were disappointed that the same was not done for Caregivers who are mostly black women and have borne the worst brunt of this pandemic. This reality is borne out by  all the evidence. Further, we are now in certain respects in a worse position given the deadly second wave of the pandemic. Numbers of applicants for the SRD grant have continued to rise, despite the hard lockdowns being lifted, which demonstrates that the need continues to be great.[1]  

 We would like to meet to discuss in detail the following demands:

  • Extension and increase of the COVID-19 R350 SRD grants to at least the food poverty line of R585 per person per month
  • The unduly harsh and narrow criteria for accessing the grant need to be reassessed.
  • Caregivers must qualify for the COVID-19 SRD grant, regardless of whether they are receiving a child support grant on behalf of their children.
  • Urgent progress towards implementation of the long overdue Basic Income Guarantee (grant) for those aged 18 to 59 years.

We have to work together with the government to ensure that a humanitarian crisis is averted, which we believe will ensue if the grant is terminated. We are committed to discussing this further and  call for an urgent meeting with you this week, before the grant lapses. While the country mourns insurmountable loss of human life, we must do everything in our power to ease the difficulties of millions in South Africa who are relying on these grants.

We will be holding a press conference on these issues on Thursday 28 January 2021 and we hope to be able to announce significant progress in addressing this matter, Mr President.

[1] According to a SASSA presentation to parliament on 1 December, applications rose from 6,6 million in May 2020 to 9,3 million in October 2020; and approved applications increased from 4,4 million to 6,039 million.

Black Sash – Lynette Maart
C19 People’s Coalition – Cash Transfers Working Group – Shaeera Kalla
Institute for Economic Justice – Neil Coleman

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