COSATU supports civil society’s court challenge to the unfair exclusion of millions from the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supports civil society’s court challenge to the unfair exclusion of millions from the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.  The Federation is deeply dismayed that the Department of Social Development has indicated its intention to oppose this common sense and humane call by the Institute for Economic Justice, #PayTheGrants and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute.  

The SRD Grant has been one of the largest and most progressive interventions by government in recent times.  It was a critical lifeline to over 10.9 million poor South Africans when it commenced in March 2022 during the COVID-19 lockdown.  It provides a foundation for the Basic Income Grant that enjoys the overwhelming support of society, the Alliance and Parliament.

COSATU supports the correct call made by the civil society coalition in its court papers, in particular their raising the alarm bell on the massive drop in SRD Grant recipients from the initial uptake of 10.9 million to 7.1 million currently.  The court papers submitted by civil society outline various reasons why eligible people are excluded from receiving the SRD grant, including:

  • Overly broad definitions of income to determine whether an applicant falls below the means-test threshold.
  • Exclusionary online-only application process that indigent persons struggle to access.
  • Deficient bank and database verification processes.
  • Narrow appeals processes excluding important supplementary evidence.
  • Arbitrary exclusion of qualifying applicants when funds are depleted.
  • Inflationary erosion of the grant’s value since its introduction.
  • Continuous delays and failures to pay approved beneficiaries.

Our fears are exacerbated by the reality that 18.3 million individuals aged 18 to 59 live below the food poverty line, without access to adequate nutrition.  20.4% of South African families experience food insecurity, with 20.9% sending a member to beg for food.  Apart from the SRD grant, there is no permanent social assistance available to South Africans individuals before retirement and without disabilities.

The Federation appreciates the real fiscal constraints facing government, but It is beyond shameful that government has found money and appetite to adjust the salaries of over fed politicians and pled poverty when it comes to adjusting the SRD Grant to protect it from inflationary erosion.  Treasury needs to table a Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement at Parliament in October that resources the SRD Grant for all eligible persons and recovers its lost value due to its having not been adjusted for inflation since its introduction 3 years ago.  Government needs to raise the SRD Grant to the Food Poverty Line in the 2024/25 Budget.

The Presidency must intervene to enable a progressive out of court settlement be reached that will embrace civil society’s progressive demands.  Its time government address and not deflect these important demands. 

Issued by COSATU

For further comment please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687