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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the extension of the social grant, saying it is not an indication that more people need grants now than before, as some have suggested.

He said many of the poor, including working-age adults who are unemployed, simply did not receive support.

“In 1999 just above 2.5-million people were receiving social grants. Today that number has increased to more than 18-million people.

“In addition, more than two million indigent households also receive free basic water, basic electricity and solid waste removal services as part of this government’s commitment to free basic services for the poor,” said Ramaphosa.

He said human rights month was ending, “which beckons a time where we reflect on the sacrifices that were made in the struggle for freedom, but also on the progress we have made in advancing the human rights of all”.

“The right to social security is explicit in the bill of rights. This is an approach that recognises that social security is essential to other rights, including the right to dignity.

“It is this right that has underpinned the progressive expansion of SA’s social protection system over the past three decades.”

Ramaphosa added that the social relief of distress grant, introduced in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic,had reached more than 11-million people at its peak and lifted millions out of food poverty.

“According to research, about 50% of the purchases made by SRD grant recipients are groceries. Social grants also act as a stimulus for the economy as a whole, increase spending in townships and rural areas, and improve employment outcomes.”

Ramaphosa referred to an interview-based study by the University of Johannesburg of informal traders in the Johannesburg CBD, Orange Farm, Mthatha, Mqanduli and Warwick Junction in Durban which found that the SRD grant stimulated customer spending, provided capital to purchase stock and enabled the formation of new businesses.

“Informal traders and SRD grant recipients in Philippi in the Western Cape also told researchers that it had a positive impact on their businesses. According to another recent study by researchers at the University of Cape Town, the SRD grant also increased the probability of recipients searching for jobs and gaining employment,” said Ramaphosa.

Similarly, many participants in the presidential employment stimulus initiative (Pesi) had gone on to find work after completing the programme.

“The school assistants programme has provided opportunities for 750,000 young people to date in over 22,000 schools, reaching every corner of the country.

“Over 72% of participants in the Pesi said that having gained their first work experience, the programme helped them to gain a foothold in the labour market thereafter,” Ramaphosa said.

SA’s world-renowned social protection system, he said, provided important benefits for many people and  not only for those who received social grants. It also supported economic growth from the bottom up, enabled business activity and strengthened social solidarity and stability.

Hailing it as one of the greatest achievements of democracy that the country should be proud of, the president said the social relief of distress grant represented a significant step in the government’s commitment to provide a minimum level of support below which no citizen should fall.

“We are working on options to provide basic income support for the unemployed, within our fiscal constraints, beyond the expiry of the SRD grant in April next year.

“If the focus of our struggle for liberation was to end apartheid and achieve political freedom, the focus of our efforts now must be to address inequality and ensure that every South African enjoys the fruits of democracy.”

He said it was well recognised that inequality constrained growth, and that growth in unequal societies tended to reproduce those patterns of inequality.

“This is why our economic policy is guided by the need on the one hand to implement structural reforms to stimulate growth and enhance our economic competitiveness, while on the other expanding social protection and public employment and supporting the social wage.”

He said the country could not have one without the other, adding that the government was making steady progress on both.


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