Civil society organisations under the umbrella of #PayTheGrants have slammed Sassa’s decision to terminate the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grant, which was aimed at cushioning the unemployed during the pandemic.
JOHANNESBURG – Civil society organisations under the umbrella of #PayTheGrants have slammed the decision by the SA Social Security Agency to terminate the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grant, which was aimed at cushioning the unemployed during the pandemic.
In a short statement on Thursday night, Sassa said the payment of the “R350 grant” was coming to an end on Friday.
“This means that no new applications will be accepted after this date. However, all applications which have been approved and who have not yet received the money will still be paid,” Sassa said.
The organisation said those who had their applications declined between February and April this year could appeal their decision by logging an appeal on the website – https://SRD.sassa.gov.za.
“If the appeal is not lodged, the declined application will not be reconsidered. The appeal period closes on 31 May 2021. No appeals will be accepted after this date,” Sassa said.
Nathan Taylor, a volunteer and spokesperson for the Covid-19 People’s Coalition for #PayTheGrants, said they were “vehemently opposed” to the decision of terminating the grant.
He said the #PayTheGrants coalition had been trying to engage the government – including the Presidency, Treasury, Social Development and Sassa for months.
“We are quite vehemently opposed to this decision because the government has been quiet on it, Sassa has been apologetic throughout, but for Sassa to now say it is just following orders and then to see the hashtag #SassaCares when they are taking our food in the mouths of over 6.9 million people, that we find is nothing short of despicable.
“Between Sassa, Social Development, Treasury and the Presidency, it is a circus, we have been pushing for a meeting for months now and all we get are notifications that our requests have been received, but we have never ever had any meaningful engagement with them, they keep playing this game of passing the baton amongst each other,” he said.
Taylor said the termination of the R350 grant would have a severe impact and would cause a great deal of anxiety.
“The Department of Social Development tells us we are still talking about it, which is what they said in October and January, but then they leave it to the last moment to tell millions of people that they will not be able to eat next month because they are terminating the grant,” he said.
Taylor said the impact of the grant was clear for all to see as it put money in the pockets of the poor.
“What we are seeing around the world is that the best way to cushion the impact of this pandemic is direct cash to people in poverty. In the South African context, we have a continuing crisis of structural unemployment.
“Seeking work costs money and the grant was helping in that respect, of course you get people who say ’oh no people just don’t want to work, they are lazy and they will spend the money on alcohol’.
That may be true for a tiny portion, but the reality that we have been seeing is that people have been taking this R350 which we all think is not a lot, and they have been pursuing small entrepreneurship endeavours – we do see that, we see people setting up small kiosks and women saving R10 –R20 to cushion themselves for periods of seasonal unemployment,” he said.
Taylor said the grant was not a waste as the money would be invariably spent within communities. He said the real crime was tax breaks for the rich and quantitative easing, he said, accusing the rich of taking that money out of the country.
“Give money to people in the community, the money will be used in the community, unlike if you give it to the rich, who will take the money out of the country and it disappears,” he said.
“Today isn’t the end, today is symbolic. This isn’t something that is going to go away. When the government says it has no money, we say what about the 6.9 million people who have no food,” he said.
Busi Sibeko of the Institute for Economic Justice said they were disappointed but not surprised by Sassa’s decision as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had made no provision for the grant during his Budget Speech.
“We believe that the grant needs to be extended and it needs to be used as a way to build towards a universal basic income grant.
“Given the great need, many households need this support, we will continue to argue that this amount should be at least R585, which is the food poverty line,” she said.
Sibeko said the grant was needed to cushion the millions of people who were jobless and those who had lost their livelihoods due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We need to look at what this decision means for households, how does the grant interact with a households ability to provide basic needs.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs, this grant was assisting in filling in the gaps that were left, so that impact is big,” she said.
Sibeko said they will organising and mobilising for the grant and a universal income grant.
Meanwhile, this is how some responded to the Sassa decision to terminate the grant on Twitter.