Black Sash, the human rights advocacy group, has called on government to extend and increase the Covid-19 relief grant to R550 and implement a R1 268 basic income grant for citizens aged 18 to 59.
Black Sash’s national advocacy manager, Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, said government had an obligation to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, and was pushing for the unemployed group aged 18 to 59, which receives a social grant, to be given the basic income grant of R1 268 per month.
The group has secured about 280 000 signatures for their basic income grant petition campaign, which also calls for the Covid-19 grant increases of R250 to be made permanent.
There are about 11 million unemployed people in South Africa, while a further 1.4 million people lost their jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.
“At the very least, there must be a grant that allows people to eat,” Abrahams-Fayker said.
She added that care-givers must also qualify for the basic income grant as individuals and that the austerity measures in the budget were shocking as the child care grant was increased by “a measly” R10 and other grants by R30.
“These increases cannot enable people to put food on the table.”
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu recently announced that the department was finalising its basic income grant proposals, including financing options and implementation pathways in the coming financial year.
Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group co-ordinator, Mervyn Abrahams, said South Africa was applying austerity measures that would slow down the economy.
“Whilst most countries in the world are investing/spending their way out of the crisis because they know that if they do not, then their economies are likely to collapse, South Africa is choosing not to. Instead of providing income support and a substantial economic stimulus to enable households and the economy to recover, South Africa is stubbornly applying austerity measures which will likely slow down any economic revival,” Abrahams said.
The group said that the household affordability crisis was going to deepen this year because of core household expenses like transport, electricity and food increasing to above inflation levels, whilst wage increases continue to remain low.
“The Minister of Finance (Tito Mboweni), and by implication, the government and the ANC, are contributing to this deepening crisis by setting the annual increments on the old age grant and child support grant - incomes used by households to buy food for children and pay for essential services - way below inflation in the 2021 budget. Conditions at household level have worsened since the start of the pandemic. Jobs have been lost, wages cut and money must spread further,” he said.
Abrahams said that other increases to household’s expenditure would worsen their ability to afford basic, nutritious groceries.
For example, a 27 cents increase in the fuel price, due to rising international crude oil prices - which has already resulted in several fuel price hikes in 2021 - will increase the prices for all goods and services; while a 15.63% increase in electricity tariffs, could raise the monthly bill of low-income households by at least R101.20 a month.
Taxi fares are also expected to increase between 7% and 25%.
Food prices, albeit unpredictable, may increase by as much as 10%.