The C19 People’s Coalition has read reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa and the COVID-19 National Command Council are set to decide on whether and how to extend social security grants. The Coalition calls for a doubling of all social security grants. But this would still exclude some 10 million unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 59 who do not qualify for most social security grant. Therefore we call for the provision of a basic income grant to the unemployed between 18 and 59 at an amount at least equivalent for the current disability grant (at R1860). We call for this basic income grant to be made permanent and equalised for all social security grant beneficiaries.
The People’s Coalition also understands that the government is considering an emergency increase in the child support grant. Indeed, the child support grant must be doubled. Money for this can be re-appropriated from the suspended grant for the School Nutrition Programme. Over R7 billion is allocated to the School Nutrition Programme. This money must be redirected to supplement the Child Support Grant. School closures mean that millions of children have lost the benefit of the School Nutrition Programme, and plans to distribute parcels of food to all of them are implausible. Millions of people are in the process of losing an income. In the absence of an expansion of the child support grant, South Africa faces a social catastrophe.
We also call for additional food points to reach all poor people without foods. We also call on the Department of Social Development to ramp up the implementation of its social relief of distress measures which can provide emergency food, clothing, blankets, medicines and other basic supplies for people facing distress and disaster. We call on the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to ensure that all measures are taken to diminish the possibility of infection at pay-out points.
All these measures we demand will mitigate the economic hardships facing millions of people imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. The lockdown is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, but it has widely disrupted access to income. Many of the demands we are putting forward are within the powers of the Minister of Social Development. We therefore call on Minister Lindiwe Zulu to act on these demands in terms her current powers. Further, we call on President Ramaphosa not to give in to calls for austerity in public spending. Government must step in with these social security measures, so that people can buy the basic necessities needed to stay healthy and remain at home.
There are many people in South Africa who are not covered by social security grants who are losing their income and livelihoods. Thus we reiterate our call to the COVID-19 National Command Council to take emergency measures to ensure income security for all.
The first plank of our Programme of Action calls for Income Security for All. So far, the Programme has been endorsed by over 160 organisations. Community structures and social movements, trade unions and informal workers’ organisations, faith-based organisations, academic institutes, public interest law firms, NGOs, community health workers, migrants, refugees, and rural advocacy associations, have all given this issue priority.
Noncedo Madubedube, Equal Education General Secretary 079 170 4656
Mazibuko Jara, Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education, Deputy Director 083 987 9633