The South African Government has a constitutional and an international obligation to provide social security, including to ensure that those aged 18 to 59 years have access to social assistance.


The South African Government has a constitutional and an international obligation to provide social security, including to ensure that those aged 18 to 59 years have access to social assistance. 

Watch our webinar to launch the Basic Income Support campaign and report.

Section 27 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution makes provision for Social Security “including appropriate social assistance if they are unable to support themselves”. Income support in the form of social grants is provided to approximately 18 million of the most vulnerable: the elderly, children and people with disabilities. However, able bodied persons aged 18 to 59 with no or little income are excluded from social assistance grants.

The South African government must uphold the United Nations International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it ratified. The Covenant forms the cornerstone of international human rights law. Key recommendations are that the South African government must “ensure that those between the ages of 18 and 59 with little or no income have access to social assistance; consider the possibility of introducing a universal basic income grant”; and “raise the level of government social assistance benefits to a level that ensures an adequate standard of living for recipients and their families”.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global economic and humanitarian crisis.  South Africa’s already dire economic situation, with the triple challenges of systemic poverty, unemployment and inequality, has become bleaker. The national lockdown has exacerbated structural unemployment, led to increased food prices and placed immense strain on household resources. The pandemic has compounded food insecurity and hunger is widespread. For the foreseeable future, the economy will not be able to absorb all the unemployed.

In April 2020, government introduced the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant of R350 per month for six months for the unemployed only. However, the online application platform and verification process for those eligible for the COVID-19 SRD grant uses dated government databases and continues to result in serious access challenges.

While most grants benefitted from a monthly top up of R250 for six months, the Child Support Grant was increased by R300 per child for the month of May only. Caregivers received a grant of R500 per month for five months as recipients of the Child Support Grant, from June until October 2020, irrespective of the number of children. 

Both new social grants are inadequate to cover basic food, energy sources and transport, as well as the additional cost of complying with hygiene protocols during the pandemic. 

Income support for those aged 18 to 59 with no or little income is a critical step towards government’s implementation of a universal basic income grant to ensure that all who live in South Africa have an adequate standard of living.

We demand that government:

  • Implements permanent social assistance for those aged 18 to 59, valued at the upper-bound poverty line, currently R1,227 per month. Caregivers, who receive the Child Support Grant must also qualify for this grant; 

  • Make the COVID-19 grant increases of R250 per month permanent for all social grants; 

  • Ensures that the above provisions apply to refugees, permanent residents, asylum seekers and migrant workers with special permits; and 

  • Works towards a universal basic income. 


BIS endorsement header


1. Alternative Information and Development Centre ( AIDC)


3. Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Graduate School of Business

4. Botshabelo Unemployment Movement

5. Cancer Alliance

6. Cash Transfers Working Group of the C19 Peoples Coalition

7. Centre for Applied Legal Studies

8. Children in Distress (CINDI)

9. Community Advice Offices South Africa (CAOSA)

10. Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)

11. Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)

12. Democracy Development Program

13. Dullah Omar Institute

14. Environmental Monitoring Group

15. Equal Education

16. Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape (PLAAS)

17. Institute for Economic Justice

18. Ndifuna Ukwazi

19. Organised for Work

20. Public Health Movement

21. Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)

22. Refugee Social Services

23. Right2Know

24. Scalabrini

25. Section 27

26. Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition ( SRJC)

27. Shayisfuba Feminist Collective

28. Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT)

29. South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU)

30. South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO)

31. Southern African Social Policy Research Institute NPC

32. Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII)

33. Triangle Project

34. Women on Farms Project

35. Workers’ World Media Productions (WWMP)