Black Sash response to 2024 budget speech

Cape Town, Thursday 22 February 2024: Black Sash urges the Government to address the challenges faced by those impacted by poverty. We implore the Minister and his portfolio to understand that these South Africans cannot wait any longer for government’s plans to materialise. The situation for millions of South Africans has become life threatening.     

Therefore, the Minister of Finance and Treasury, must prioritise the welfare of communities and people faced with poverty who live hand to mouth.  Black Sash anticipated to hear the following from Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana’s budget speech: 

  • An increase to ALL social grants aligned with the inflation rate 
  • An inflation equivalent increase and permanent SRD Grant for the unemployed aged 18-59 
  • The Child Support Grant increased to the Food Poverty Line (FPL) of R760.00 
  • A well administered, transparent efficient and effective grant payment system managed by SASSA. 

The budget failed to speak to the majority in South Africa who are unemployed and hungry, and it failed to consider the constitutional obligations to ensure that the rights in the Bill of Rights are upheld and resourced.  As the President affirmed in SONA, the Constitution must stand at the centre of the government’s work to build a better life for all.  Minister Godongwana failed to prioritise the fulfilment of basic rights.   

  • Minister Godongwana ‘delivered’ the following regarding Social Grants:  
  • No mention of the SRD budget was mentioned in the budget speech. The Minister, in his speech committed to a new grant and figure, and regulations for these.  
  • The Old Age and Disability Grant increases by R90 in April 2024 and a further R10 in October 2024. The result is a total increase to R2185.00. 
  • The Child Support Grant increased by a mere R20 from R510 to R530. 
  • The Foster Care grant increases from R1125 to R1180.  

 In summary this is what the 2024 Budget Speech means for women, for children, for the poor and for the working class 

The SRD Grant: 

The SRD Grant has been a lifeline for care givers, the majority of whom are black women who are unable to get a job, owing both to the structural unemployment in South Africa and the responsibility of having to care for children or elders in the family. A failure on the part of the Minister to increase the grant, or the total allocated budget for the grant is a grave misgiving.  

A defunding of the SRD Grant: 

Over the last 3 years we have seen a significant defunding of this life-saving grant. In 2023, R36 billion had been allocated to the extension of the SRD Grant, a 25% decrease from the previously allocated R44 billion, meaning less people accessing the grant. In 2024 there has been no communicated allocation for the SRD grant. As of January 2024, SASSA received 16 341 473 applications for the Social Relief of Distress Grant, where SASSA only approved 8 278 912 of which 6 938 780 grants were only paid. This defunding of social grants is contrary to the Constitutional obligation to make available resources to realise people’s Constitutional Rights. As the President stated in his SONA address, we must be guided by Section 27 of the Constitution – that we must remember it is the state’s obligation with its available resources, to take all reasonable measures to ensure that people have access to water, food, healthcare services and social security, including social protection. Realising this means allocating sufficient available resources to fund these important social interventions.  Despite the President pledging to an improved and an extended Social Relief of Distress, there was no undertaking to increase the grant and to extend it further than March 2025.  

Work is currently underway to improve the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant by April this year. National Treasury will work with the Department of Social Development in ensuring that improvements in this grant are captured in the final regulations. However, the draft regulations that were published for comment show no substantial amendments to increase and approve the grants. It rather imposes punitive measures by granting powers to government to recover monies from beneficiaries if they are seen as persons who should not have benefitted and that where a beneficiary does not collect their monies within 90 days, those monies will be forfeited to the State. 

The Food Poverty Line is currently at R760. How then are unemployed people receiving the SRD Grant meant to live on a monthly R350? It is not even enough to buy a loaf of bread a day, every day for a month. It is crucial for government to fulfil its constitutional obligation to provide support for those who cannot support themselves with Basic Income Support. The odds are stacked against job seekers in South Africa’s sluggish economy.  According to Veronica Harris,  it’s quite difficult not getting an income “I’m 56. I’m too young for a pension. I’m too old to find a job. So, it’s a struggle”. Given that the rate of job creation cannot keep pace with the urgent need, it is imperative for economic recovery to be complemented with basic income support alongside job creation. 

The minimal increases to the Child Support Grant and Foster Care Grant are shocking and fail to address the lived reality and struggles faced by caregivers for children. Nosipho Radebe who is a recipient of a Child Support Grant says: “I use the child support grant to pay transport and school fees. The school fees are expensive, and I still owe transport money. So, I don’t have money to support my children”. Black Sash welcomes the increase to the school nutrition program. It’s reassuring to know a few more children will benefit from it this year. According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, in February 2024, the Child Support Grant of R510 is 33% below the Food Poverty Line of R760, and 46% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet of R938,25 which is almost double the amount of the Child Support Grant. This is concerning for several reasons, including the existing statistics on child malnutrition, the increased level of child stunting, as well as the important Constitutional obligation that the rights of a child are of paramount importance in all matters concerning the child. The increase to the early childhood development grant from R1.6 billion to R2 billion over the medium term is welcomed to start addressing child hunger noting that much more needs to be done.  

An Anti-Poor Budget Speech: 

The President referred to a targeted basic income grant in SONA, but the Minister of Finance failed to speak on how and when mechanisms for this kind of support will be implemented. Does this mean that the President was making empty promises? 

The 2024 budget speech predictably focused on South Africa’s electricity crisis. It did not speak to any of the impoverished and marginalized communities in South Africa and the reality being these communities form the majority. Youth unemployment, rising food prices and inaccessible social grants are a recipe for economic instability. 

We are very disappointed that the budget fails to consider the poor and most vulnerable by responding with a review of the impact of social grants and acknowledge that it falls short of providing a lifeline for those that depend on government to survive. We are concerned that the National Treasury is tightening the purse strings to prevent comprehensive social security. 

Therefore, the Minister, as well as the rest of government must prioritise the welfare of communities and people faced with poverty who live hand to mouth. We call on the Government to urgently address the following:   

  1. Recognise the urgency for the government to fulfil its constitutional imperatives and prioritise service delivery in the public sector over fiscal consolidation.
  2. Acknowledge that job creation must be complemented by comprehensive social security with permanent social assistance for the unemployed, stimulating economic growth.
  3. Put into action, plans to respond to the impact that the energy crisis has on the poor.
  4. Placing South Africans first must become the order of the day, and we implore the Minster and Treasury to consider the fiscus from a human rights perspective rather than affordability.   

A Black Sash documentary series highlights the lived reality of too many living in South Africa who struggle for daily 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. The 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 and their daily struggle to survive.   

To view the series, please visit our website or here. 


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