Govt intensifying its war against the poor – COSATU

Federation says decision to stop the R350 SRD grant a slap in the face of millions of desperate citizens

The government’s unilateral and callous decision to eviscerate the R350 Special Relief Dispensation (SRD) grant is a sign that it is intensifying its war against the poor

26 April 2022

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is shocked by government’s unilateral and callous decision to eviscerate the R350 Special Relief Dispensation (SRD) Grant. Previously, around 10 million persons who had an income of R595 (food poverty line) or less were entitled to receive the R350 SRD Grant. 

 The income threshold has now been slashed by nearly 60% to an income cap of R350.  In other words, close to three (3) million or 30% of the grant recipients who earned between R351 and R595 will no longer be eligible after a Ministerial direction was released last week introducing these changes. 

 It is disappointing that this was not tabled nor raised at Nedlac by government even though social partners have spent a great deal of time engaging on and working with government on the new post-disaster regulations. This is the same government that took money from public servants while handing over tax breaks and other incentives to the private sector.

 The Alliance and National Parliament were also not informed of these drastic amendments.  This undermines the very budget tabled in Parliament that provides for the SRD Grant to remain at the same level for the duration of the 2022/23 financial year.  It speaks volumes that government did this without any public consultation.

 It is difficult to imagine how a social compact will be negotiated with a sneaky government that chooses to undermine and bypass Nedlac on such an important issue. The SRD Grant has been a standing agenda item and the federation made it clear that it regards the extension of the SRD Grant as a key pillar for a social compact. 

 This is a slap in the face to the millions who receive and depend upon this SRD Grant. It is callous and reckless that the overfed politicians and out-of-touch bureaucrats who recently recommended a 3% salary increase for Political office bearers are prepared to take money from the unemployed South Africans. 

 These are the same people who voted to provide 12 free tickets per annum for life to retired MPs and their entitled spouses. This comes on the heels of media reports that the North West Provincial Government has been unable to spend R17 billion or a third of the government budget. There are also allegations of corruption in the Free State Department of Transport and the notorious Enoch Mgijima Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

 These budget cuts and the rampant corruption in government are punishing the poor. South Africa has an all-time high unemployment rate of 46%. At the same the National Treasury decided in February to slash the Presidential Employment Stimulus from R24 billion to R18 billion and thus reducing by 300 000 the number of people it could provide employment opportunities for.  There are no alternative opportunities that are being provided for these social grant recipients.

 The government needs to explain to the public what informs this shameful decision and must reverse it immediately.  We expect them to stick to the budget tabled in Parliament and honour the approved SRD Grant for all persons earning R595 or less per month as tabled at Parliament in the 2022/ 23 Budget.

 President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration is proving to be an anti-worker and anti-poor administration that is prepared to take the money from workers and the poor and give it to the country’s elite. They are doing this while mismanaging the economy to the ground.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 26 April 2022