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

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Millions are still waiting for the R350 grant to resume.
Millions are still waiting for the R350 grant to resume.
Picture:iStock/ Blanscape
  • The payment of social relief of distress grants has stalled as government puts new process in place.
  • Some 10.6 million people have applied for the new round of the grant.
  • Sassa says it hopes to start paying grants again in mid-June.

The 10.6 million people who applied to receive the new round of the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant from 1 April have not yet received payments for April and May. 

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has said that it hopes to begin payments in mid-June after other social grants have been paid. The grant was extended in the February budget and will be provided until March 2023. 

The delay is due to the decision by the Department of Social Development to set a means test for the new phase of the grant. Anyone with an income of R350 a month or more – even if this is support from a family member – will not be eligible. But to put the test in place, Sassa had to sign new agreements with banks, which will screen bank accounts for income.

In a presentation to Parliament last week, the department and Sassa said:

"To enable the means testing, Sassa needed to procure the services of banks. This process was completed in the previous year, but required the concurrence of the minister of finance, before concluding the contracts. The concurrence from the minister of finance was received on 30 April 2022. The concurrence, however, contained additional conditions, which the bank’s legal services had to work through, resulting in delays in concluding the contracts."

The rationale for the means test – which was previously very loose and excluded only the employed – is to ensure that the grant reaches the poorest of the poor. The budget allocated to the SRD in February’s budget was R44 billion – enough to service 10.5 million people. However, the department said it believed that more people would apply this time around.

READEven R350 in support from family will disqualify SA's poor from SRD grants

'National disgrace'

Civil society organisations and advocacy groups on Wednesday slammed the delay saying that it had thrown people into "a catastrophic situation". 

"Civil society has consistently been raising concerns about multiple problems that have been reported by beneficiaries, since payment of the SRD grant was shifted to administration under the Social Assistance Act from the beginning of April. We were shocked to discover over the last few days that not a single SRD grant has been paid in April or May 2022. 

"This is a scandal and a national disgrace. While there had been problems prior to April 2022, over 10 million beneficiaries were being paid on a monthly basis. Government has now needlessly and recklessly reversed this achievement, and the poorest South Africans have been thrown into a catastrophic situation," said a statement from Black Sash and other organisations. 

Sassa said it would respond to questions before the close of business on Thursday.

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