After two months, R350 grant payments will restart next week, says Ramaphosa

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Ashraf Hendricks

Government will resume payment of a Covid-19 grant after millions of people who rely on the stipend went unpaid for two months.

The so-called Social Relief of Distress, or SRD grant, wasn’t remitted in April and May after the government changed the criteria for the payments, according to the Johannesburg-based Institute for Economic Justice. More than 10 million beneficiaries of the stipend have been affected, it said in a statement this week.

READ | No R350 grants were paid in April and May, Sassa admits

“The grants will resume next week and the beneficiaries will get backpay for the months they were not paid out,” President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters at a briefing Friday in Cape Town.

The SRD grant was first paid in 2020 as a temporary measure to support individuals affected by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. It was reintroduced in the wake of deadly riots, looting and arson in July last year and subsequently has been extended until March 2023.

The ANC has held up its social security program as one of its greatest successes taken to alleviate poverty in one of the world’s most unequal nations. Before the Covid-19 stipend, more than 18 million people, or almost a third of the population, received state aid.

One of the obstacles to payments has been difficulties faced by the state-owned South African Post Office in rendering services to grant beneficiaries, according to the Black Sash, a Johannesburg-based advocacy group. Problems encountered by the SAPO included cash shortages, non-payment of staff and the closure of post offices.

"Safety and security at many SAPO branches have deteriorated alarmingly, which poses a threat to grant beneficiaries, particularly women, the elderly, and persons living with disabilities," the Black Sash said. "There are inadequate security measures in place at sites because of SAPO’s flagging finances."

Department of Social Development spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant, Paseka Letsatsi of the South African Social Security Agency and SAPO spokesman Johan Kruger didn’t respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

South Africa will spend 3.9% of gross domestic product on welfare, mostly in the form of child support and pensions, in the current fiscal year. That’s more than most countries and will amount to 248 billion rand.

- With assistance from Mike Cohen.

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