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Pressure mounting to keep Covid-19 grant

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The R350 Social Relief of Distress grant is expected to end on Friday.

The R350 Social Relief of Distress grant is expected to end on Friday
People gather outside the Bishop Lavis Post Office for to collect the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant. File Picture: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

The R350 Social Relief of Distress grant is expected to end on Friday.

DURBAN – CIVIC bodies and labour unions are today due to announce drastic moves that seek to bolster their campaign for the extension and increase of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.

The R350 grant, first announced in April last year when the effects of the Covid-19-related hard lockdown hit hard on livelihoods, is expected to end on Friday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended it twice already, in July last year and later in January this year for a further three months.

Veteran civic organisation Black Sash and the #PayTheGrants advocacy group said in a joint statement that they would be joined by faith-based organisations and trade unions to announce major action in an attempt to pressure the government to keep and increase the grant.

“The grant should be increased (from R350) to the food poverty line that is currently at R585,” the statement said.

It was also Cosatu’s position that the grant be extended for as long as the dearth in job opportunities remained.

“If you don’t extend it, how do you expect the people who have no other means of income to put food on the table?” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

The SA Unemployed Workers Union said it was deeply concerned that these grants that had brought some sort of relief to the downtrodden would be coming to an end.

“We are concerned that in March, Parliament heard that there were 67 000 payments that were subject to investigation as they were paid to undeserving people.

“All these shenanigans point to a corrupt state that doesn’t care for the unemployed,” said union president Jabu Ntusi.

“We call on the government to extend the period for the grants and investigate how these funds were handled and disbursed,” he said.

As part of the campaign, the civic bodies have launched a petition in which they seek at least 40 000 signatures from people who are in support of the call.

In addition to the demands for the extension and the R585 hike, the movement wants to “expand the grant to unemployed adults who are receiving the Child Support Grant, reassess and improve the harshly narrow criteria for accessing the SRD grant, and improve its administration and urgently implement the long overdue Basic Income Grant (BIG) for those aged 18 to 59 years with little to no income, to at least the upper-bound poverty line that is currently at R1 268”.

On the issue of the BIG, Department of Social Development (DSD) spokesperson Lumka Olifant has previously told The Mercury that the department was making policy proposals on the implementation of the grant. In an eNCA television interview last week, DSD Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the department had presented the request to Ramaphosa seeking an extension of the grant.

The Presidency had not responded by the time of publication.

THE MERCURY