Poverty, social alienation will increase now that special Covid-19 grant is no more - Lindiwe Zulu

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Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu.
Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu.
  • An end to social relief programmes will increase the number of people who go hungry, says Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
  • Zulu believes poverty will add to social and political stress.
  • Zulu said people used government's R350 grant mainly to purchase food.

Government ending its social relief programmes will reduce household demand and increase "hunger and social alienation".

According to Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, these factors would add to social and political stress.

"It will, in turn, slow down the economic recovery over the coming year or two at least," Zulu said.

This was contained in her response to a written parliamentary question from EFF MP Henry Andries Shembeni.

Zulu said to date, a total of 9 998 879 applications had been received for the relief grant.

READ | New grant may target unemployed people aged 19 to 59 years, govt says

However, the numbers approved per month varied as validation of every application was done monthly.

Zulu also said the Department of Social Development conducted a rapid assessment of the R350 Covid-19 grant which came to an end in April.

Other independent studies conducted were also reviewed.

She said:

All studies confirm that the relief measures have made significant impact on the livelihoods of not only those receiving the grant, but also those in a household of a grant recipient. From our rapid assessment study we found that around 88% of recipients of the Covid-19 grant pooled the grant with their other household incomes to take care of the needs of everyone in the household, thereby confirming that the reach of the grant to reduce poverty, thus goes far beyond just the recipient.

"It is estimated that between the caregivers' allowance and the Covid-19 grant of R350, approximately 36 million individuals benefitted from these both directly and indirectly," she said.

Zulu said their utilisation surveys also indicated that the grant was mainly used to purchase food.

"This triangulates well with other research indicating that hunger declined during the period May to October 2020 when the relief package was at its maximum level and then increased from November onwards when part of the relief package, and notably the caregivers allowance, was withdrawn. It is expected that with the withdrawal of the last portion of the relief package, whilst in the third wave of the pandemic, more households and individuals will become vulnerable to hunger," she added.

READ ALSO | Covid-19 relief: Government squandered R177m on 'damaged, poorly packaged' food parcels - AG

A study also found that had there been no social relief grants, poverty would have increased dramatically.

"Poverty measured at the food poverty line would have increased from 20.6% of the population living below the food poverty line to 32.1% if there were no Covid-19 social relief interventions. However, with these interventions, not only were we able to prevent further deepening of food poverty, but also decrease this from 20.6% to 18.8%. Similar results were found at the lower and upper bound poverty lines," she said.

According to Zulu, the work was done by Southern Africa - Towards Inclusive Economic development (SATIED) programme.

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