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A pre-budget week of extensive load-shedding and wall-to-wall media coverage of failing, cash-guzzling state-owned entities may have helped to temper expectations on the social grants front. Some pensioners the FM spoke to even feared that with all the talk about state capture and a collapsing Eskom, the ANC government might do what it has never done before — cut the nominal value of social grants received by 17.9-million citizens. There have of course been years when the nominal increase was not sufficient to cover inflation — such as 2017, when the increase in the old-age pension amounted to a slight decline in real terms. But to date the government has stuck commendably to its decades-old commitment, referred to by finance minister Tito Mboweni in his budget speech: "Improve the conditions of life for all South Africans, especially the poor." And as the National Treasury says in its 894-page Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE): "Social assistance protects against inequality a...

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