The C19 Peoples Coalition, an NGO, is calling for government to extend the R350 COVID-19 Social Relief Grant to the end of March of next year and are also asking for it to be increased to R585 a month instead of the R350 it currently is.
SABC News spoke to Dr. Natasha Vally, a Lecturer of the Department of Sociology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) who is also a member of C19 People's Coalition Cash Transfers Working Group. She said:
The benefits of the Social Relief Distress Grant and the Caregivers Grant will be terminated at the end of October and this would cause a humanitarian crisis because approximately 6.8 million would be plunged below the food poverty line.
Vally then goes on to explain that about 12.7 million are receiving those two grants in total.
Yes, we can all agree that the SRD grant has brought forward many issues and has had many hiccups but research has shown that this grant has prevented millions of people from starving and cutting off this grant would result in a mass humanitarian crisis, says Vally.
The C19 People's Coalition called for Government to do three things:
- Extend both grants by at least five months
- Increase the grants to R585 a month
- Re-assess the criteria for accessing the SRD grant
This movement is supported by almost 80 other NGO's and can help more people as well as fix some administrative issues, says Vally.
"We cannot afford to not increase these grants and extend them. It's about time that profits take a backseat to people's lives and to people's livelihoods," proclaimed Vally.
The C19 People's Coalition has done calculations in terms of the extension and increase of grants and found that it would cost R37 billion which they say is a fraction of the other proposals under consideration's cost. Vally explains that there are many ways for money to be redirected to this.
Vally says, "There is a global pandemic and the fiscal constraints and balancing the budget should not be what is prioritised at the moment".
If these grants are taken away, it's predicted that social upheaval and resistance will be seen by those who it's being taken away from.
The Government, because they have the moral obligation but also the power to ensure that people do not starve. R585 is still a really really minimal amount of money but it si a small amount that can ensure that people do not have to make the choice between starvation or survival.
- Dr Natasha Vally
In a statement released by the NGO, they stated, "All available information clearly suggests that the government has decided not to extend the grants at the end of October. Government’s decision to terminate the relief measures is irresponsible and reprehensible given the socio-economic realities of our country. This decision must be reversed ... National Treasury has stated in different fora, including Nedlac, that it is not considering this option."
They are of the opinion that if Government doesn't answer these calls and implement them, it "would deepen the crisis" and that "the extension of these grants are critical until we have a comprehensive plan for guaranteed basic incomes".
It seems that the grant will be extended as Minister Zulu said, “People on the R350 grant will still receive their money, even though the grant is ending. Those owed payments will still be paid, that’s what we have budgeted for. We won’t accept new applications, but we will extend this scheme for those who have already received payment".
"We will extend on the basis of payment on those that have applied so nobody must apply now and think that they're going to be paid thereafter," explained the Minister. Zulu says they have budgeted to pay all those who apply and are approved before the grant comes to an end.
On the SRD grant switching to a Basic Income Grant, Zulu has said that it could be very expensive and that they are, " looking at more sustainable support in the future. The ANC has formed a team of experts to look at this. South Africa has the capacity to ensure more can be done. There is strong support for a basic income grant to replace the R350 grant, but the policy has to be accepted and implemented through the proper channels.”
The grant came into fruition six months ago as government's way of assisting the unemployed and to help them cope during the national lockdown. It's set to come to an end at the end of this month in October.