Lockdown: Madonsela, Vavi, join call to extend social relief of distress grants

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Bellville Sassa offices, Cape Town.
Bellville Sassa offices, Cape Town.
Jenni Evans
  • The government should extend the social relief of distress grants to help the increasing number of families in distress during the Covid-19 pandemic, a coalition says.
  • Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says people are facing dehumanising poverty and urgent intervention is needed.
  • Professor Thuli Madonsela joined the call with a suggestion that two social workers per ward also be put in place to deal with the crisis.

A coalition of NGOs and unions is calling for the urgent extension of the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant which lapses at the end of January.

"It's hard to understand why the government is ending the Covid grant," said Daddy Mabe of the Assembly of the Unemployed.

"It has been crucial at a time where the poverty rate increased sharply, and food prices continue to rise," said Mabe, a social justice activist reading a statement by the coalition during a digital briefing on Thursday. 

The coalition stated that terminating the grant and the Care Dependency Grant grant is not only causing suffering for people already living below the poverty line, but it is impacting an inordinate amount of women who are caregivers. 

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The coalition said the Care Dependency Grant is overwhelmingly received by women (95%), whereas women only make up a third of grant recipients.

Zwelinzima Vavi. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images
Zwelinzima Vavi.

The Care Dependency Grant and the Temporary Disability grants were terminated at the end of December, and people who think they are still in the same position must reapply. This had led to long queues at offices, where staff numbers are also reduced to 50% of staff in the office in line with Covid-19 regulations, and mounting backlogs. 

Alarm

The grant is expected to lapse at the end of January, setting off widespread alarm for people who depended on it. 

"This can be corrected either through the reinstatement of the Caregivers Grant, or the amendment of the SRD Grant conditions to at least include caregivers to qualify for the grant," said Mabe.

SA Federation of Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warned that the country was already staring at a possible civil war with increased protests and crime. 

"Why are we not intervening? Why are we not bringing in the Basic Income Grant or extending social grants to intervene to stop a situation?" he said.

Professor Thuli Madonsela said not paying the grants may not be enough to end poverty, but they do help people to prevent hunger.

READ | 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines are coming, says Ramaphosa

"They have kept financial ecosystems in townships, in villages, just above water," said Madonsela, law faculty social justice chair at Stellenbosch University.

THULI
Former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

Madonsela said each municipal ward should also have at least two social workers on the ground to help people.

The C19 People's Coalition said communication about the grants had also been very poor, and that here should be a clear plan from the government to avoid a humanitarian crisis. 

The Coalition was also lobbying for the urgent introduction of a Basic Income Grant.

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