Black Sash, a South African human rights organisation advocating for social justice, is calling for a universal basic income grant to address poverty, hunger, and unemployment in the country.
The organisation made this call following the extension of the R350 grant until March 2024. The Department of Social Development (DSD) and the National Treasury have amended the grant payment expiry date from March 2023 to March 2024, without addressing many of the challenges faced in accessing and implementing the grant.
Black Sash, along with other civil society organisations, formed a Universal Basic Income Coalition to call for the monthly R350 grant amount to increase from R350 to at least the monthly Food Poverty Line of R663 and to turn the R350 grant into a permanent Universal Basic Income Grant for people between the ages of 18 to 59, progressively improving to the value of the Upper Bound Poverty Line of R1,417 in 2022.
The Coalition highlighted that the R350 grant regulations are exclusionary and create unnecessary barriers for the most impoverished and vulnerable people in society.
In failing to amend the grant amount, the means test, and mechanisms for application and verification of income, government has once again failed to take the opportunity to address many of the challenges which have plagued access to, and implementation of, the SRD (R350 grant) since its inception, but particularly since new Regulations were introduced in April 2022.
The call for a universal basic income grant is in response to the high levels of poverty, inequality, and unemployment in the country. The unemployment crisis is so severe that the majority of the unemployed people are not expected to find work in the short term.
Stats SA recorded that 11.8 million people were unemployed in quarter four 2022, with the majority of them being unemployed long-term. The R350 grant is not only a lifeline for many, but it has also been shown to promote job-seeking, job creation, and economic activity in the country.
Although the government reported a R94 billion revenue overrun in the recent budget, the National Treasury has suggested that the SRD Grant is unaffordable. The budget allocation for the grant is far too low to reach the group of people living below the food poverty line, as indicated by the government's own statistics.
Black Sash is calling on the government to prioritise reducing poverty and hunger and to make the SRD Grant permanent, while addressing the challenges faced in accessing and implementing the grant.