R350 grant a 'stepping stone' towards basic income grant: Lindiwe Zulu

Social development minister says applications for R350 special relief of distress grant will open on Friday

04 August 2021 - 18:32
By nonkululeko njilo AND Nonkululeko Njilo
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said her department must ensure the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grant is received only by those who qualify.
Image: Linda Mthombeni Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said her department must ensure the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grant is received only by those who qualify.

The government says the reintroduction of the social relief of distress grant is a stepping stone towards a basic income grant, and that those eligible can begin applying as soon as Friday.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu made the remarks during a media briefing on Wednesday.

She said the grant — which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the wake of economic devastation caused by Covid-19 lockdown level 4 and violent civil unrest — was the government's commitment to “cushioning the poorest and distressed in our country” amid the pandemic.

R26.7bn, inclusive of administrative costs borne by Sassa, has been allocated for the grant, which will run for eight months from August 2021 to March 2022.

Payments for the new iteration were expected to commence before the end of August, the minister said.

“We have also highlighted that the special Covid-19 grant should ideally be a stepping stone to a basic income grant. We are now working on the policy aspects surrounding this, including the implementation and resource mobilisation aspects related to this grant, working with various stakeholders through a series of consultations and will provide updates,” she said.

Zulu confirmed that the eligibility criteria for the special relief from distress grant would be extended to include more people, including unemployed caregivers receiving childcare grants.

While some people had raised concerns about not receiving their grants despite meeting the criteria, Zulu said her department was aware of this and planned on reimbursing them.

“It is also important to highlight that all recipients who may have not received some of their payments during the first iteration of the grant between May 2020 and April 2021 will certainly receive their payments and this new iteration will not affect those payments,” she said.

Concerns of long queues at various collection points had also been raised. Responding to this, Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela said various stakeholders, including retailers, were being engaged to lift the pressure off collection points.

Zulu shared similar sentiments.

“Sassa and the Post Office are hard at work developing additional channels through which approved applicants can access their funds, to reduce the queues at the post offices. This will include access to the funds through participating merchants and ATMs. Further information will be provided in coming days,” she said.

The social development department urged the public to apply when in real need and financial distress, warning that action would be taken against those who don't qualify for or deserve the grant.

“If you do not need nor qualify for this grant, please refrain from taking away from the people who are truly in need. We will continue to monitor any fraudulent activity and Sassa will implement measures to recover every cent from those who benefited wrongly.”

Zulu slammed critics of the grant and recipients who misused it.

“The reality is that people are unemployed. The reality is that people are poor.”