The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] supports the calls for government to introduce the universal Basic Income Grant [BIG].

As NEHAWU, our support for the introduction of the universal basic income grant is based on the urgent need to address the economic crisis and the crisis of social reproduction facing nearly half of our population in the peripheral townships and rural areas, afflicting the working class youth and women in particular. This is evident with high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

South Africa remains the most unequal society in the world with high rates of unemployment, extreme poverty and inequality. This situation was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic with millions of our people having their livelihoods severely impacted by the pandemic.

As a response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government introduced a special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress [SRD] Grant of R350 as a temporary provision of assistance intended for persons in such a dire material need that they are unable to meet their families’ most basic needs.

The introduction of SRD Grant was a decisive intervention especially for working-class families that could not support their livelihoods and indeed the SRD grant made a significant difference too many of our people confronted with unemployment and poverty.

As NEHAWU, we strongly believe that the government should use the SRD Grant as the basis for expanding into a universal basic income grant in the quest of providing social security for all of our people. The universal basic income grant will provide our people with dignified livelihoods and social protection.

The universal basic income grant is about providing comprehensive social security to address the conditions and livelihoods of all our people in line with Section 27 (1) (c) of the Constitution which states that: “Everyone has the right to have access to social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance”.

Equally, as NEHAWU, we want to register our fundamental opposition to the plans by Government and National Treasury to change the SRD grant to a ‘jobseekers’ grant in line with proposals of the World Bank. We reject this with the contempt it deserves.

The plan by government and treasury will have dire consequence on millions of our people who receive the SRD grant if it were to be changed from its current framework. This forms part of the neoliberal dogmatic madness of national treasury instead of prioritising concrete solutions to the deepening inequalities, poverty and rising unemployment. It is a disgrace that in the year marking the 10th anniversary since the Taylor Commission [Committee on Inquiry into a Comprehensive Social Security System for South Africa] published its report, in which the universal basic income grant was one of the key recommendations, the Treasury’s hand is still in the sand, unable to provide any solutions to poverty whilst dogmatically sticking to its catastrophic and failing Neoliberal macroeconomic straightjacket.

Lastly, we call on the ANC led government to accelerate the introduction of the universal Basic Income Grant as part of phasing in a comprehensive social security system in line with resolutions of its own consecutive national conferences.


Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: