Cosatu wants relief grant made permanent and increased to R624 in line with food poverty line

“The reinstatement of the R350 grant is a critical poverty alleviation intervention. However, its recipients will not miraculously find work when it ends on April 1, 2022,” Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks said.

17 September 2021 - 19:27
Union federation, Cosatu has thrown its weight behind the Second Special Appropriation Bill
Union federation, Cosatu has thrown its weight behind the Second Special Appropriation Bill
Image: SUNDAY TIMES

Union federation Cosatu has thrown its weight behind legislation that seeks urgent additional funding allocations of more than R32bn to address the impact of Covid-19 and the aftermath of July's civil unrest.

The federation says the Second Special Appropriation Bill will provide desperately-needed relief.

Speaking before parliament's standing committee on appropriations on Friday, Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator, Matthew Parks, said the federation supported the speedy passage of the bill.

“It will provide badly needed relief to millions of persons who are unemployed and with no source of income. It will provide critical relief to thousands of companies and save jobs and prevent closures,” he said.

The unrest wreaked havoc in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. It claimed more than  300 lives and resulted in extensive damage to infrastructure, including 161 malls, 11 warehouses, eight factories, 200 shopping centres and 11 liquor outlets. About 3,000 stores were looted.

The National Treasury said the funding, if the bill is passed, would to be distributed to, among other entities, the SA Special Risk Insurance Association (Sasria), which could be liable for claims of up to R20bn after the unrest.

Other entities expected to benefit include the departments of social development, defence, police, and trade, industry and competition.

A sum of R26.7bn is sought in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement to reintroduce the R350 social relief of distress grant until the end of March 2022.

Parks said the federation supported the return of the distress grant and was of the view that it should be terminated given the current economic crisis. 

Instead, he said it should be made permanent and in fact be increased in line with the food poverty line of R624 from April 1, 2022.

“The reinstatement of the R350 grant is a critical poverty alleviation intervention.  However, its recipients will not miraculously find work when it ends on April 1, 2022.

“The federation also hopes that the R500m allocated for administration to Sassa will be used to modernise their systems, prevent corruption and ensure that payments can be done electronically to all recipients. Recipients should not be forced to spend days in queues at the post office,” said Parks.

The bill also sets out that R250m in additional funds is proposed for allocation to the police for the deployment of SAPS personnel to deal with the unrest. 

It is proposed that R700m be allocated to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for the deployment of military personnel to assist the police to restore order. 

The funds are also for the deployment of SANDF members for three months, as part of the Sadc standby force. The federation however said it was concerned about the deterioration of the SANDF. 

“Cosatu supports the deployment of the SANDF.  It played a critical role in restoring law and order to these provinces. However, we are concerned how the SANDF itself has been weakened over the past decade.

“Bases and material have been allowed to deteriorate to alarming levels. Corruption and wasteful expenditure are widespread. Military personnel are undertrained due to the shortage of funds,´" said Parks.  

The federation was also concerned that the defence department is the largest offender in the state when it comes to the late payment of suppliers.

“If these internal crises are not dealt with it will make future deployments of the SANDF impossible.”

The federation said further engagements were needed to explore how the SANDF and SAPS could be adequately resourced to fulfil their constitutionally mandated roles.  

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