Deputy President Paul Mashatile addressed the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) this week where he chronicled the progress and other significant inroads made by the government in improving the lives of South Africans since the dawn of democracy.
Mashtile highlighted the notable achievements including increasing access to learning opportunities for children, the increase in the percentage of adults completing secondary school and increasing the provision of basic services.
The Deputy President also praised government interventions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, commonly referred to as the R350 grant due to its monetary value.
The R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD grant) benefitted nearly 10 million unemployed people, mainly young people and women. Nearly 18.6 million South Africans - up from 2 million in 1999 - receive social grants, including 8.4 million receiving R350 monthly Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant introduced for the unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since its introduction in 2020, the implementation of the R350 grant has been extended on several occasions. Its latest extension means that the grant will continue providing support to millions of vulnerable people until the end of March 2025.
Mashatile acknowledged that the value of the grant has not increased for the entirety of its implementation. The grant has not kept pace with the inflation rate which drastically reduced what items beneficiaries of the grant can buy.
While there is widespread support for this Social Relief Distress grant, there are concerns that many deserving people are excluded from the grant and that the value of SRD has not kept up with inflation.
The deputy president provided some hope to beneficiaries of the grant when he revealed that the government will work to ensure people are not excluded from the grant and that the value of the grant should be reviewed.
As the ANC Government, we will tackle these exclusions and ensure that the value of the grant is reviewed.
Sceptical individuals questioned whether Mashatile’s sentiments were genuine or if the deputy president was electioneering with South Africans set to return to the polls of the general election in 2024.
Whilst more than 16.3 million people are employed in our country, unemployment remains unacceptably high, with 8 - 10 million people, on the expanded definition of unemployment, being without a job.
Why The Value Of The R350 Grant Has Not Increased
According to the Department of Social Development, the lack of an increase is due to "fiscal constraints." Despite the department's request to the National Treasury for an increase, it was not favourably considered due to these fiscal constraints.
Both the Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, and Brenda Sibeko, the Deputy Director-General at the department, have expressed their desire for an increase in the SRD grant. However, there has been no official confirmation of a grant increase, and it currently remains at the value of R350 per month.