We have a budget to pay R350 grant until March 2023

We have a budget to pay R350 grant until March 2023
SOCIAL RELIEF GRANT: Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu says government has enough money in its coffers to pay R350 grants. PICTURE by News24

The grant was introduced soon after the devastating COVID-19 pandemic hit SA shores.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu is adamant SA has enough money to fulfil President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pledge to extend the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant until the end of March 2023.

“When the president announces ‘I have so many millions for such and such a thing’, it’s because it has been budgeted for already … So it is not that the Treasury still needs to find the money,” Zulu said.

During his state of the nation address on 10 February 2022, Ramaphosa allayed the fears of millions of South Africans who are deeply dependent on the grant, when he said it would be extended for a further year.

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The decision to extend it comes after ongoing discussions between the government and its social partners in business and labour, who proposed an extension of some of the social and economic support.

However, Ramaphosa said the relief should not come at the expense of basic services, given the already under-pressure fiscus. 

There is also mounting pressure for the government to expand the SRD grant into a basic income grant. Zulu said that before Ramaphosa made his announcement, ministers met to discuss pledges and exactly how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer.

“The president was never going to announce the extension if there was no money. The extension has been budgeted for. In this case, the government was never going to announce that we are going to pay money if it didn’t have it because once the people don’t get that money, we get into trouble,” she said.

Zulu said the government’s decision to extend the SRD grant for another 12 months was because the country continued to feel the economic devastation of the pandemic.

“Data shows us the majority that is getting the money are unemployed and the chances of them getting employment within this short space of time are not going to happen,” she said.

Due to the economic constraints, Zulu said the amount would not be increased.

“The chances of what was announced by the president changing are zero because it has been budgeted for and allocated to us. So we are hoping and saying that this is a stepping stone to a basic income grant,” she said.

She said it was important for the government to have instruments that will ensure that the money lands in the right hands – because “there are some South Africans who have returned to work but they are not telling us, so every time when the government decides that money needs to go to a particular place, it has to go there”.

The government has a means test to investigate when people have multiple streams of income.

“As the economy opens, people are going back to work so we have a means test where we check with Sars [the South African Revenue Service] whether you are paying tax or not. This process is complicated and sometimes it excludes some of the people that are meant to be included.

Zulu said there was an appeals process for those who want to challenge the outcome of their application.

Sunday Times Daily –