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Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: LINDA MTHOMBENI
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: LINDA MTHOMBENI

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu says she is pained that beneficiaries of the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant have not yet received their payments, but processes have to be completed before payments can be distributed. 

Last week civil society groups the Black Sash, the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) and the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) issued a joint statement criticising “a national scandal” by the department.

The groups said they were shocked to discover over the past few days that beneficiaries were not paid for the months of April and May, saying this was a scandal and a national disgrace.

Applications for the new phase of the R350 grant opened in April under the Social Assistance Act after the national state of disaster came to an end. 

Speaking on 702, Zulu said she feels for those who have not received their R350 grant payments, but her department was not at fault.

She said the processes involved in distributing the funds through Treasury and banks are causing delays in payments. 

Zulu said the change in Covid-19 regulations meant government had to change its agreements with banks.

“We are really sorry we have had to go through this process and it is taking this long, but the money will be paid to the right beneficiaries,” she said.

Zulu could not commit to a date when beneficiaries will start receiving their money, but said negotiations with banks are nearly complete. 

“We are going to be paying back from the time people applied and were approved. The payments will be backdated,” she said. 

The money will be paid to the right beneficiaries.
 Lindiwe Zulu, social development minister

Previously, the department said applicants who receive R350 a month or more in financial support from a family member or elsewhere will be disqualified from the grant in the next cycle, as it aims to prioritise those who need it most.

Addressing parliament’s portfolio committee for social development, Zulu said R44bn has been set aside to pay qualifying beneficiaries. 

She said the budget will provide the monthly R350 to 10.5-million people until the end of March next year.

“Aspects of the regulations had to be strengthened to strengthen our fraud prevention and deter those who are not the intended beneficiaries [accessing] this grant,” said Zulu. 

“The department will thus be providing the R350 grant to fewer people in the third iteration than it did in the second iteration.”

On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said payments will resume sometime this week.

“I have been given a report that they are going to start paying next week and will be backdating, because our people have been relying on this,” he said.

“There were problems. When the R350 grant started, I got involved with officials and it was concerning. I kept asking how we are going to be able to pay this amount and they said, ‘Mr President, we are working with a few service providers and in the end we might have to do it ourselves’, and it really concerned me at the time.

“The applications started coming through and it was six-million at the time and I kept asking, ‘Will we be able to pay?’ and they said, ‘Mr President, we are able to pay. We have inaugurated a new system from scratch and we will be able to pay’,” said Ramaphosa. 

TimesLIVE

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