“As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
Nelson Mandela

A Black Sash docu-series highlights the lived reality of too many

living in South Africa is a daily struggle for survival

In 2023, Black Sash, in collaboration with veteran producer Johann Abraham and with the support of our community partners, produced a docu-series highlighting people’s lived experiences as they faced poverty, hunger and unemployment. he docu-series highlights the importance of supporting the call for Basic Income Support. The purpose of these stories is to get a glimpse of the struggles of many who live in South Africa.

The series provides a platform for the most vulnerable in our society to use their own voice to tell those living in South Africa about their lived reality, their daily struggle to survive.

These stories explore the following themes:

  1. Their Story Their Truth – the struggle to survive.
  2. How they survive.
  3. Whether the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant is enough.
  4. Exploring what role government must play.
  5. And contemplating what the future holds.
“I live with my mother, our situation is bad, no-one is
working so there is no income. There are times that we go without food.”
“I'm living with my two daughters and two grandkids. That mommy can't find a job because she didn't finish matric. And they come at night and I have to feed them too.”
“I no longer see myself as a human being in this community, I still depend on my mother. She raised me but I still depend on her. So, do you see how painful this is?”
“My wife works at a creche where she helps out for 3 days a week, where she only gets a hundred rand a day.”
“So I couldn't manage to have money for transport every day. Then that's how I lost another job.”

Why Black Sash advocates for the right to basic income support for 18 to 59 years.

The triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment have been a consistent challenge that has been plaguing our country even though South Africa has one of the most advanced Constitutions in the world and despite its social assistance policy which has been described as a major intervention to address the issues in our country.

While acknowledging that social grants have been an important instrument in reducing poverty in the country, there is a concern by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that the poverty rates remain high and has recognised the vulnerability of the “missing middle” where those between the age of 18 to 59 years are excluded from being eligible for permanent social assistance, especially with high unemployment. 

In its efforts to address unemployment with job creation, it is therefore important for the government to complement job creation with support for the unemployed as we work towards economic recovery. The government recognised this vulnerability of the unemployed when the President introduced the COVID Social Relief of Distress Grant for the unemployed as a buffer against hunger and starvation in 2020.

This was a significant intervention and an acknowledgement by the government that the unemployed could not support themselves. Following pressure from civil society, the grant has been extended until March 2025. The government is yet to commit to permanent social assistance for the unemployed between 18 and 59 years where its value is enough to pay for basic needs and can be accessed by all who are unemployed. 

“When I got R350 grant it helped a lot. I could buy bread, something to eat for the bread.”
“It is not going well with us, my husband is the only breadwinner, and he is not healthy, but he has to keep working for us.”
“I have applied for unemployment funding. I don’t bother to apply anymore because it is very difficult.”
“Nobody's working. So I'm the one who hustles to put bread on the table. I survive.”
“We can't even buy enough food I don't know what's
wrong. I am always alone, and I survive with God's help in this situation.”
“I am unable to care for my child while looking for work. I don't have money for the creche. I only receive child support for my child.”

Given that South Africa is struggling to create work opportunities for the unemployed despite the commitment by the government to job creation, government needs to fulfil its constitutional mandate to support those who cannot support themselves by committing to basic income support for the unemployed in their struggle to find jobs and work towards universal basic income as the solution to address the challenges faced by those living in South Africa. 

Our work on the ground with community partners expose us to the lived realities faced those living in South Africa who struggle to survive from day to day. The time is crucial for civil society to accelerate and highlight the need for Basic Income Support.

“I ended up breaking my arm. But I didn't have money to catch a taxi to the hospital for an X-ray. Right now, I don't work, and my arm can't do anything.”
“I survive with my parents pension grant money. I have two children, and they also survive on my parent’s pension grant money.”
“I last worked this year during March, and then I am still
currently seeking a job and I am submitting my CV. I haven’t found a job.”
“With the SRD grant you will be able to open a business
I could open a tuckshop business and sell sweets to kids at school.”
“I have four kids and one grandchild. At the moment I’m unemployed. I ‘ve been unemployed for 5 to 6 years.”
“I'm 56. I'm too young for a pension. I'm too old for disability. I'm too old to find a job. So it's a struggle –a daily challenge.”

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4 and 5