To Poor Households, Social Grants Are A Relief

2014-02-21 19:13

Over the years there has been continuous debate around the government’s welfare policies, social grants in particular. Opposition parties like the DA and other commentators have contested the idea of social grants as cultivating a culture of dependency among citizens.

Although none has been forwarded to my attention yet, I suppose there have even been scholarly publications that sought to study ‘the phenomenon of social grants in a contemporary socio-political context’.

Liberals and some in the black middle class argue that laziness and teenage pregnancies are ramifications of the welfare system. Of course that is a shallow argument that could not be farther from logic, but to some people it is an argument worth advancing. I don’t believe there is anyone in her right-thinking status who can decide to have a baby in order to qualify for grants. The crisis of teenage pregnancy has frustrated us in such a way that we don’t even know what to attribute it to (e.g. is it attributable to free condoms, TV sex scenes, lack of sex education?).

The Democratic Alliance as a political party that is hunting the black vote has taken a position that also counters the issuing of social grants. That is electoral suicide if you ask me. There are huge, unpardonable offences that emanate from the use of social grants as a political and academic tool. The primary point is simply that social grants are for many poor households the only means for survival and are inevitably an emotional topic to them. Insufficient as they are relative to the costs of living, social grants cannot merely be dismissed as an instigation of laziness.

This is where the DA and other commentators who are far from reality miss the point.

Whoever feels obliged to speak against social grants must first and foremost be aware that there are people who don’t have any other means of income for now to survive, and such people only need that little money to have the energy to wake up, go to school and be masters of their own destiny.

Moreover, there are child-headed families that happen to be victims of HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

Can you conscientiously accuse a 14 year-old girl, who has about four younger siblings to look after, of being lazy and dependent on the government welfare as if she has any other mechanisms for a better livelihood?

What about disability grants and grants issued on the basis of chronic illnesses?

Some of us in rural areas and townships are victims of broken families and have to be taken care of by our grandmothers, who, without any alternative, have to use their pension money to support the entire family.

The DA is being way too inconsiderate.

It is true that we need an economic climate that creates jobs, but even the most developed countries still grapple with the issue of unemployment. You will never cater for everyone due to various factors, thus rendering social grants necessary (but that's really not my point).

The fact is that most of us who grew up in poverty-stricken rural areas will attest that had it not been due to social grants we wouldn’t have been where we are. Admittedly, there are those who get drunk in their newly-acquired positions of privilege and the excitement of being regarded as intelligent to such a point that they hypocritically rubbish the very same welfare system that bought them school uniform, maintained their human dignity and fed their stomachs (J.Z’s clever blacks in practice).

The DA and all critics of social grants should perhaps conduct a near-experience research into the families that depend on social grants. In that way they will witness the great impact grants have on such families.

I honestly feel that the DA is prematurely targeting the poor black vote. It firstly must commit itself to understanding the challenges facing black people in rural areas, squatter camps and townships.

And then structure a realistic campaign that responds to those identified challenges. Or else the ANC will always remain the most relevant party among the poor.

At the moment, like President Jacob Zuma said, the DA does not understand “the historical suffering of the poor majority”.


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