The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be an immediate threat and until we have large scale vaccinations, everyone remains at risk. We are far from rolling out the vaccines widely and a third wave of the coronavirus is expected. Until then, economic growth will be constrained and sufficient access to healthcare, food and social security remain important lifelines.
While the President’s speech was filled with many promises, significant facts included: we must overcome poverty, joblessness and hunger; economic growth has declined by 6,6% with 1.7 million more people unemployed; and the unemployment rate is now a staggering 30,8% or 43,1% according to the expanded definition.
What this requires is immediate state intervention in the form of direct cash transfers to those who are unable to meet their basic needs. Close to ten million people applied for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant and about three million people were rejected. We also know that over seven million recipients benefitted from the Caregiver Grant – a grant government terminated in October 2020. These figures illustrate how pervasive poverty and unemployment is. It further indicates that the President’s projection for a recovered economy with significant employment opportunities by the end of 2021 is extremely unrealistic.
While we note the second three-month extension of the Covid-19 SRD grant, government must immediately adjust the eligibility criteria to include adult women who are unemployed and who receive a Child Support Grant on behalf of children.
Additionally, Black Sash demands that the R350 Covid-19 SRD grant be aligned with the Upper-Bound Poverty Line of R1 268. In the interim an adjustment to the Food Poverty Line, currently at R585, will suffice. Government must extend this grant until the end of the 2020/2021 financial year, after which Basic Income Support for those aged 18 to 59 years with no to little income must be made permanent. President Ramaphosa’s address was silent on the government’s long term plans for the implementation of Basic Income Support. This is deeply concerning given that the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment is structural in nature and that full employment remains a myth.
The Black Sash launched an Amandla.mobi petition, which to date has 278, 853 signatures, calling on those living in South Africa to support our Basic Income Support campaign for those aged 18 to 59 years with no to little income. We encourage as many people as possible to sign the petition, to ensure that the right to social security becomes a reality for those who are currently excluded.
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