We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

R350 social relief of distress grant has cost taxpayers R45bn since start of Covid-19

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the Covid-19 R350 social relief of distress grant will be extended until March 2023. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the Covid-19 R350 social relief of distress grant will be extended until March 2023. File photo.
Image: SA government via Twitter

It has cost taxpayers R45bn to pay the R350 social relief of distress grant to about 10.5-million South Africans affected by the Covid-19 pandemic since April 2020.

“We will not be able to indicate how much it will cost for the additional 12 months as the process is still in its infancy,” said South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi on Thursday.

Letsatsi was referring to President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that the government would be extending the grant until the end of March 2023.

He said social development minister Lindiwe Zulu needed to issue the regulation.

“As we speak we are busy with the regulations,” he said, adding that finance minister Enoch Godongwana will outline the finer details when he delivers his budget speech on February 23,” he said.

“The total number of grants paid from May 2020 to April 2021 is 68,813,375 (cumulative) at a cost R24bn. The total grants paid for August 2021 to February 2022 is 58,951,264 at a total cost of R21bn. We still have March to validate and pay — projected cost [is] about R3bn.”

During his reply to the state of the nation debate in Cape Town on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said given the scale of unemployment and the impact of the pandemic, the interventions the government was employing to create jobs will take many years to reach all 11-million unemployed South Africans.

“We are extending the R350 social relief of distress grant for another year precisely to reach these people and to stave off hunger. We are doing this within a fiscal environment that has been badly worsened by the pandemic.

“We need to do so while making sure we do not further weaken our macroeconomic position and do not allow our debt service costs to further crowd out social spending.”

He said SA would need to fill the gap in social protection to achieve a minimum level of support for those struggling to find work.

“Finding a sustainable, affordable and effective solution must be one of the central pillars of the renewed social compact we have undertaken to build.

“There are several other aspects of social protection receiving attention. This includes strengthening child protection services in areas such as adoption, foster care and the protection of the rights of children.”

Last week social development minister Lindiwe Zulu told Sunday Times Daily the country has enough money to fulfil Ramaphosa’s pledge.

There is also mounting pressure for the government to expand the R350 social relief of distress grant into a basic income grant. 

She said it was highly unlikely that the government would increase the amount.

“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 this is a stepping stone to a basic income grant,” she said.

Zulu added the government was tightening mechanisms to prevent the money from landing in the wrong hands.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.