Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

SRD grant increases to R370 on 1 April by a meagre R20

One coalition of NGOs is not happy with the R20 increase in the SRD grant, saying it is not an improvement, but an insulting pittance.

The SRD grant will increase from R350 to R370 on 1 April as government tries to keep the president’s promise in his State of the Nation Address to improve it.

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana announced the increase for the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) on Wednesday in the national assembly. He said the minister of social development will publish a comprehensive social security programme soon that will define a better platform and future for the social security net in South Africa.

“I am pleased to say that we have found consensus that in the meantime, subject to the finalisation of the comprehensive social security programme, we will increase the R350 to R370 by 1 April this year. That is part of the progressive realisation of the basic rights of our people,” he said.

Godongwana also announced in his Budget speech in February that social grants across the board will increase over the course of 2024.

ALSO READ: Sassa R350 grant: How to change your SRD phone number

Disconnect with millions who face hunger daily

However, the Black Sash says the president’s promise to expand the SRD grant brought hope for the almost 9 million adults who receive it in their daily struggle to have enough food to eat, while Godongwana also promised a bigger grant, despite there being no money for the increase in the social development budget vote.

“Against this promise of an expansion and improvement of the grant, the announcement by the minister of an increase of a meagre R20 per month from 1 April smacks of a disconnect with the state of persistent food insecurity millions face and amounts to empty political opportunism,” the Universal Basic Income Coalition says.

The Coalition is comprised the Alternative Information and Development Centre, Black Sash, Basic Income Earth Network Africa UBI Observatory, Children’s Institute, UCT, Cosatu, Global Reformed Platforms for Engagement, RightfulShare An Income Movement, Institute for Economic Justice, #PayTheGrants, Social Policy Initiative, Women on Farms Project and Youth Lab.

“This is neither an improvement nor an expansion as current and draft regulations are and will prevent at least 7 million people every month from receiving the grant. The newly announced R20 increase is not enough to reverse four years of zero inflationary increases, nor is it sufficient to cover even the minimum energy intake for an individual which was costed by Stats SA at R760 per month for 2023.”

ALSO READ: Sona 2024 promises: Will SRD be ‘improved’ to Basic Income Grant?

R350 not adjusted for inflation past four years

The Coalition also points out that the current amount of R350 has not been adjusted to keep pace with inflation since its introduction in 2020. In real terms, this implies a decrease in the grant value of around 20%.

“The increase must account for value lost to inflation since 2020, in other words, an increase which retains the R350 value in real terms. If the grant is increased to be in line with increasing prices alone, the value in 2024 should be between R440 or R467 based on food inflation.

“This would merely mean a stabilisation of its 2020 value, without any real increase. Therefore, this at minimum requires an increase of R90. Any increase which fails to meet this threshold would be regressive.”

The Coalition says this increase is contrary to the finance minister’s acknowledgement that “we are sensitive to the increase in the cost of living”. Even with the R20 increase, recipients are R70 poorer than they were in 2020 because the cost of living is not factored in.

“This speaks to the austerity budget that undermines constitutional obligations. The minister allocated a budget of R44 billion in anticipation of 10.5 million beneficiaries qualifying for the grant in 2022, which was reduced in nominal terms to R36 billion in 2023 and now further reduced to R33,6 billion in 2024. This begs the question of how the grant amount and access to the grant will be improved with a further reduced budget.”

ALSO READ: Budget 2024: Godongwana pulls purse strings as social grants receive minimal increases

Concern that government will further limit who qualifies

The Coalition says it is concerned that the meagre increase will encourage government to further limit who qualifies for this grant given the budget allocation, rather than to ensure that all those who need the grant can access it.

“The budget allocated determines the number of applicants who qualify. Given the further constrained budget, the intended consequence of being exclusionary by default will continue to limit who will qualify for the grant despite the need.”

The Coalition believes the increase should at least partially compensate beneficiaries for the loss in value of the grant which they have experienced over the last four years. It says calculating the loss of value over four years is a proxy because while the great majority of beneficiaries may have received the grant for four years, not all of them have.

ALSO READ: The Robin Hood effect: Govt ‘likely to increase VAT to provide for permanent SRD grant’

2.5 million excluded since inception of SRD grant

In addition, at least 2.5 million beneficiaries who were benefiting by March 2022 were excluded from the grant after the new iteration came into effect.

“The SRD grant has a high rate of exclusion errors, estimated at approximately 50% of eligible people. These exclusion errors result from barriers to application, approval and appeal for the grant, which are systemic and derive directly from the inadequate budget allocation for the grant.

“Government agencies have conceded that they privilege the reduction of inclusion errors over the reduction of exclusion errors. This approach directly leads to a higher rate of exclusion and undermines the constitutional obligation of government to progressively realise the right to social assistance.”

ALSO READ: Basic income grant: just empty promises from government?

Basic income grant

The Coalition also points out that government has committed itself to the introduction of a Universal Basic Income when it can afford it. There have been over 50 pilots of UBI programmes globally that demonstrate that a UBI generates economic growth and jobs, as well as meeting basic needs.

It would also meet the state’s constitutional obligations. “The empirical evidence shows that growth follows the UBI, not the other way around. It is time the state is led by evidence, not its ideological opposition to inclusive social security.”

The Coalition, therefore, calls on the minister of social development and the presidency to reject this unilateral decision by the minister of finance and hold him accountable to the promise of a better life for all.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits