Covid-19 relief grant recipients: Poverty alleviation must be consistent

In a recent ANC Lekgotla President Cyril Ramaphosa – in his capacity as president of the ANC – said the party had agreed to consider extending the  basic income relief to unemployed people who do not receive state assistance. The pandemic gave rise to already high unemployment numbers, and the Covid-19 grant was announced during  the first wave of the pandemic. The socio-economic effects of Covid-19 will not go away overnight. The R350 grant expired on Sunday 31 January and no new applications will be processed. We spoke to some folks who have received the grant previously, and have recently applied for assistance. 

Cameron Heslop 37 from Kroonstad in the Free State was involved in a car accident in 2015, causing major nerve damage in his arms. “I had been receiving a temporary SASSA disability grant that I had to renew every 6 months. It got rejected in January 2020 just before Covid hit. I applied for the Covid grant and eventually got approved in May 2020. I had to move back home with my pensioner parents, and I still have debts to pay. The R350 I have been using to help my parents. I know there are other people who may need it more than I do. But I can’t work. I am appealing to SASSA and the President to extend this grant, because we really need it. But sadly I think all that money is gone. The poor are getting poorer, and the rich don’t care.” 

Cordelia Jones 33 from Tembisa in Gauteng says her experience has been positive so far, and the talk of a basic income grant will be welcomed. “I never experienced any trouble with my Covid grant since I registered in May 2020. I received it in full each month, and trust me it really helped my family during the difficult times in Lockdown. I pray the government sees how it has helped millions, and extends until this pandemic is over.”

Sandile Hlela 32 from Umlazi in KZN says he has not been ok since applying for UIF when he found himself unemployed. “I haven’t had work for the past year and I sent an appeal for the Covid-19 relief grant in May 2020. Up until now they never helped me. They eventually asked me for my Identity number at the time to check, and still nothing. They keep saying the same thing that I must appeal, but there are no results. Nothing has changed for me. When I call they say I must wait for a sms of approval. I keep going back and forth. Government keeps saying we should comment about our issues, but no plan is being put in place to show us how they will fix this. They have nothing in place to help those like me who have been wrongly declined”

Government can discuss extending the grant for another six months, or introducing a basic  income grant. It does nothing without implementation. Poverty alleviation needs to be consistent and humane. People cannot survive on R350 a month. Claiming South Africa has no funds when we are aware of state fund looting is disingenuous.  This is not just a safety net for poor people, it is about giving people dignity to cover their basic needs. This is not a hand out, but a hands up- a push forward. A society is not just measured by material wealth, but how we distribute that wealth.