Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu has asked Treasury for funding to extend South Africa’s R350 Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant, EWN reports.
The grant was originally slated to run from May to October 2020 as a temporary provision of assistance. It is intended for persons in such dire material need that they are unable to meet their or their families’ most basic needs.
However, a growing number of South Africans have called for the grant to remain in place, as they grow increasingly reliant on the money amid record-high unemployment levels.
The grant is is set to come to an end on 30 April, having been extended by three months by president Cyril Ramaphosa in his state of the national address in February.
“We are also conscious of the fact that we are not the only ones looking for finance from Treasury. We are hoping that when they look at the issue they may look around maybe find the money and continue with it,” Zulu said.
Human rights group, the Black Sash, has called for the Covid relief grant to stay in effect until such time as a universal income grant is established in the country.
It also wants the grant to be increased to the same level as the Food Poverty Line – R585 – as a bare minimum, as well as to be extended to unemployed adults who are already receiving child support grants.
Ramaphosa and other government officials have said that the grant could become a more permanent fixture as a form of universal income.
In March, Zulu said that South Africa should introduce a basic income grant once the Covid-19 support measures conclude at the end of April.
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).
The Black Sash said that a basic universal income grant should be offered to South Africans aged 18 to 59 years with no to little income, and should be at least at the same level as the upper-bound poverty line, currently R1,268.