Civil society demands that government reverse the inhumane decision to exclude millions from the SRD grant and resolve catastrophic payment delays.
CIVIL society (a group comprising of the Black Sash, Amandla, The Institute for Economic Justice, Pay the Grants and SPI) said this week government has failed to pay a single Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant for the months of April and May 2022.
Civil society has demanded government reverse the “inhumane decision” to exclude millions from the SRD grant and resolve the catastrophic payment delays.
There have been raising concerns about multiple problems that had been reported by beneficiaries since payment of the SRD grant was shifted to administration under the Social Assistance Act from the beginning of April.
“This is a scandal and a national disgrace. While there had been problems prior to April 2022, over 10 million beneficiaries were being paid on a monthly basis. Government has now needlessly and recklessly reversed this achievement, and the poorest South Africans have been thrown into a catastrophic situation,” the social groups said.
According to the groups, what this really means is that “around 11 million of the poorest, who had previously been paid the SRD grant, are no longer being paid the grant. This disastrous situation may affect around half the South African population (if you consider that each beneficiary could have around two dependants)”.
“Around R8 billion has been withheld from people who are confronting hunger and desperation, at a time when unemployment continues to rise.
“Because of the multiple obstacles placed in beneficiaries’ way – outlined below – only around 10 million applied at the end of May 2022, compared to the over 15 million who applied at the end of March 2022 (with 11 million successful) according to Sassa figures.”
The social groups argue new conditions, imposed unilaterally, meant a large number of people who previously qualified for the grant, no longer did.
Administrative chaos and bureaucratic obstructionism
The groups say government’s failure to put the necessary systems in place meant that, although the government had said people would be paid by mid-June, there is little confidence the government would resolve all payments by then.
It should be noted that, in essence, government had reneged on its commitment, made in Sona, and subsequently, repeated on multiple occasions, to extend the SRD grant from April 2022 to at least the end of March 2023.
Civil society said that they were, therefore, putting the government on notice for their failures with regards to income support which are resulting in widespread suffering.
“The president, in his State of the Nation Address in February 2022, announced the extension of the SRD grant from March 2022 to March 2023, but due to bureaucratic heel-dragging including from National Treasury (who failed to secure the necessary agreements with the banks), and general administrative chaos, Department of Social Development (DSD) and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) still haven’t resumed payments. Now, people who have relied on this government assistance are growing only more desperate – for answers and for their entitlements.”
Sassa said it hoped to begin payments in mid-June after other social grants had been paid.
According to Sassa, the delay was due to the decision by the Department of Social Development to set a means test for the new phase of the grant.
According to government, anyone with an income of R350 a month or more – even if this is support from a family member – will not be eligible.
But to put the test in place, Sassa had to sign new agreements with banks, which will screen bank accounts for income.
Sassa told Parliament last week that “to enable the means testing, Sassa needed to procure the services of banks. This process was completed in the previous year but required the concurrence of the minister of finance before concluding the contracts. The concurrence from the minister of finance was received on 30 April 2022. The concurrence, however, contained additional conditions, which the bank’s legal services had to work through, resulting in delays in concluding the contracts”.
This is a developing story…