The next fiscal year will see an increase in the number of social subsidies given out by the South African government. Government must make sure that this grant increases shield the underprivileged from rising living expenses, say civil society organizations.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared during the 2024 State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the government would raise a number of grants. This will be a component of the government’s plan to assist those who are most in need of assistance in adjusting to the growing cost of living.
The South African Social Security Agency now disburses social assistance to over 25 million individuals (Sassa). The Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant is distributed to approximately 7.8 million people.
Assuring an increase in social assistance will help protect the underprivileged from rising prices, Ramaphosa added.
According to Rachel Bukasa of Black Sash, the president’s declaration during the SONA shows that the repeated requests for the SRD grant to be extended have not been ignored.
Black Sash thinks that when a choice is made about a potential increase to grants given out by Sassa, including the SRD award, a number of considerations must be taken into account. This includes accounting for inflation and growing food prices.
Inflation and the food poverty level will both be taken into consideration when we discuss an increase that we anticipate will occur.
The group is requesting that the SRD grant, which is presently valued at R350, be raised to the R624 monthly food poverty threshold.
According to Bukasa, “It’s one thing to say that individuals receive R350, and it’s quite another to say that they receive grants where they can truly support themselves with dignity.”
The affordability of the SRD grant centers is a major topic of discussion when calls for an increase are made. In order to find ways to pay for an expansion of the essential relief measure, a panel of experts should be assembled, according to Black Sash.
For now, the issue isn’t one of affordability; rather, it’s one of the desire to avoid having those dialogues.
The SRD grant’s implementation is expected to end in 2024 and is currently viewed as a temporary relief mechanism. Black Sash is requesting that the gift be made irrevocable.
Bukasa claims that the president acknowledged the triple challenge of hunger, poverty, and unemployment that South Africa is facing. More than 7 million poor adults may no longer have access to any assistance if the SRD funding expires.
As Bukasa put it, “Those people need to be taken care of; it is the government’s responsibility to make sure that people who are left with no other alternative are taken care of until adequate work mechanisms and job generation processes are in place.”
The 2024 Budget Address will include information about the government’s continued implementation of the SRD grant. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana will provide the budget speech on February 22, 2024.