South Africa has allocated an extra R4 billion rand to buy Covid-19 vaccines and extend a special distress grant to thousands of people hit by the pandemic.
Reuters reports that the allocation is included in a Special Appropriation Bill tabled by Finance minister Tito Mboweni on Tuesday (4 May).
The bill, which will be debated with the National Treasury in a parliamentary committee meeting, allocates an additional R1.25 billion to the Department of Health to purchase Covid-19 vaccines and another R2.82 billion to social development for funding the social relief of distress grant.
South Africa’s R350 Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress 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 ended on 30 April, having previously been extended by three months by president Cyril Ramaphosa in his state of the national address in February.
Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu has reportedly asked Treasury for funding to extend the grant further, with government also considering more permanent payments in the 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.”