Millions of South Africans who benefited from the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant can breathe a sigh of relief, as the government has decided to keep it going for another year.
“Mindful of the proven benefits of the grant, we will extend the R350 SRD grant for one further year to the end of March 2023,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening.
Delivering his state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said the relief should not come at the expense of basic services, given the already under pressure fiscus.
There have been growing calls to expand the grant to a basic income grant.
“As much as it has had a substantial impact, we must recognise that we face extreme fiscal constraints. A fiscal crisis would hurt the poor most of all through the deterioration of the basic services on which they rely,” he said.
Ramaphosa said he was in deep consultations with a number of community-based organisations “who have articulated very clearly the dire need in our communities but have also appreciated the challenged fiscal position that we are facing”.
This, Ramaphosa said, was something many South Africans would appreciate.
But, he said: “We have also said we will continue conversations with them. During this time we will engage in broad consultations and deep technical work to identify the best options to replace this grant. Any further support must pass the test of our own affordability and must not come at the expense of basic services or at the risk of unsustainable spending.”
He said the grant has provided support to more than 12-million unemployed people who were most vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic that landed on SA shores in March 2020.
Ramaphosa told the story of Thando Makhubu from Soweto, who he said used his R350, which he had saved for seven months, to start an ice-cream store which now employs four people.
Another person whose story he relayed was Lindokuhle Msomi, an “unemployed TV producer” from KwaMashu hostel, who saved the R350 for nine months to start a fast-food stall and to support his family.
It is the government’s ambition to establish a minimum level of support for those in greatest need, said Ramaphosa.