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Monday, December 6, 2021

Covid-19 grant essential because of lack of education & unemployment

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night heeded the calls made by several civil society organisations that his government bring back the R350 relief of social distress grant (SRD) Covid-19 relief grant.

Social activists applauded the move and saying that the grant will also help those between the ages of 15 and 24 years, an age group “most frustrated and impacted by unemployment, poverty and inequality”.

In his address on the progress in the national effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa said his government will also extend the grant to unemployed child caregivers who previously did not qualify. 

“This evening we are announcing a range of measures to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who are vulnerable as a result of the measures that we had to impose to deal with Covid-19.

“To support those who have no means of supporting themselves, we are reinstating the Social Relief of Distress Grant to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022,” said the president.

Adding that the re-introduction of the grant has been made possible by the slight improvement the South African Revenue Service has seen in its revenue collection.

Ramaphosa’s announcement comes after unrest that took place this month across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

READ: Let them eat cake: hunger and food riots in South Africa

The violence led to loss of more than 200 lives, destruction of more than 50 000 businesses, and attacks on vital infrastructure in these two provinces. The unrest was made worse by a vicious third wave of coronavirus infections.

Ramaphosa was at pains to say the looting and violence were an insurrection against the state by supporters of former President Jacob Zuma who say the former president was arrested without trial.

But some civil society organisations disagree.

According to the Budget Justice Coalition (BCJ), the actions of the last two weeks have complex and varying motivations.

“These include food and economic insecurity which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the weaknesses within the state to address this, as well as factionalism within the ruling party,” said the coalition.

Pali Lehohla, former Statistician General at Statistics South Africa said unemployment for those who are between the age of 15 to 24 and this group’s lack of education is one of the reasons a Basic Income Grant (BIG) is crucial.

“Now when we look at who are the poor, we realise that those with no education are poor.

“Those with primary education remain very poor and those with secondary education are still poor because secondary education does not take you out of poverty.

“But once you have higher education, the reduction in your poverty is massive. And you are eight times less likely to be poor when you have higher education,” said Lehohla.

He asked how much evidence does government need to implement BIG.

“There are a million fewer people employed in this age group 15 to 24. There are about 500k to 600k fewer employed in the age group 25 to 34.

READ: Ramaphosa has no plausible strategy for reducing youth unemployment

“When we have this situation of last week it does not surprise because these people do not see any future. So, we see that yes, we have a looting and the brazing to the ground of property.  

“We cannot be surprised. We have the evidence,” said the former statistician general.

It is because of this situation that the Budget Justice Coalition demanded that the president look for broader and more concrete steps necessary to address the root causes of the violence and looting.

Ramaphosa should address the “hunger, poverty, inequality and factionalism and criminality within the ruling party”. Adding that government should demonstrate its commitment to socio-economic rights as well as the rule of law.

“Government must implement a Universal Basic Income Grant to fulfil the right to social security for all and it must immediately reinstate the Covid SRD grant and the Covid Caregiver Allowance for the remainder of the 2021/22 financial year and increase both to the food poverty line of R585 per month,” they said.

The coalition said the South African government must listen to the public, turn the page, and recognise that economic growth alone will not solve our deep structural challenges and that a redistribution of wealth, income and opportunity is essential.

“Social and economic justice can only be achieved through greater and more meaningful social solidarity between elites and the majority,” said the coalition.

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