Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu says that South Africa should introduce a basic income grant once Covid-19 support measures conclude at the end of April.
Speaking during a mini-plenary debate in the National Assembly on Friday (12 March), Zulu said that despite the financial issues currently facing the country, the introduction of some form of universal income is long overdue.
“This is not the time for us to play politics around this issue, because this is an issue that should enable us to respond to the needs of the people of South Africa.
“This is the time for me, my department and my entities to get the necessary support from the wider government, and appreciate this opportune moment to move beyond discussion and policy proposals.”
Zulu further dispelled rumours that the government was considering the introduction of the grant as a form of electioneering.
Instead, she said that the discussion needs to happen as the Covid-19 grants introduced by the government ends, and a more sustainable option is introduced.
The pandemic prompted president Cyril Ramaphosa to announce a temporary top-up of existing grants by up to R300, including a R350 unemployment grant in late March 2020.
The ANC has previously said that it will also look at the feasibility of introducing a basic income grant as part of a series of outcomes decided upon by its National Executive Committee (NEC).
A national youth policy (NYP) published by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities at the start of March also calls for the introduction of a basic income grant, specifically aimed at the country’s youth.
The NYP defines young people as those aged between 14 and 35 years.
The department said that the a basic universal income grant will support young people and young discouraged jobseekers’ efforts to enter the labour market.
This should be an incentive similar to the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant primarily to support youth to transition into employment or entrepreneurship.
In January, president Cyril Ramaphosa said that the African National Congress government will consider the introduction of a basic income grant in South Africa in 2021.
Speaking at the party’s 109th-anniversary celebrations, Rampahosa said consideration for the grant comes after emergency financial measures introduced around the Covid-19 pandemic come to an end.
Despite the country’s limited resources, the country needs to look at identifying other poverty alleviation measures, he said.
“This year the ANC government, and broader society, will need to continue discussions on the desirability and the viability of a basic income grant to provide a social safety net to poor people in our country,” he said.
According to a June 2020 document seen by Bloomberg, the ANC proposes paying a R500 monthly grant to those aged 19 to 59 who aren’t normally eligible for other aid would cost the state R197.8 billion a year.
Between 50% and 60% of the money could be recouped by levying extra taxes on those with jobs, it said.