Long road to freedom

President Thabo Mbeki wants to wean women off social grants so they can stand independently on their own feet.

President Thabo Mbeki wants to wean women off social grants so they can stand independently on their own feet.

That's a fine idea but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And the most immediate obstacle on women's path to independence is the socioeconomic reality they encounter every day of their lives.

Let's not forget that the money for grants does not come from the government. It comes from us, the taxpayers.

Considering the pain taxes inflicted on working people, maybe conventional economists are right and we cannot afford the billions of rands for social grants each year.

But in a society in which almost 40 percent of the population are unemployed and in which social services are delivered sporadically, if at all, grants are often the difference between life and death.

Sure, they are often abused. Sure, they engender dependence and a misbegotten sense of entitlement. But until we can transform our society so that everyone has access to education and decent jobs we don't have many alternatives.

All of the country's citizens, including women downtrodden by generations of social and historical forces, deserve to be empowered to stand on their own without demeaning help.

Until then, they deserve the handouts.

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