SOCIAL RELIEF OF DISTRESS GRANT
Hunger looms as millions of potential Covid grant recipients still struggling to be approved
Almost six million beneficiaries have been excluded from receiving their Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants, plunging them into misery as the threat of hunger looms.
The Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant continues to face payment delays as millions of people applied for the renewed grant after president Cyril Ramaphosa stated in his state of the nation address that it would be extended up until the end of March 2023.
In May 2022, when Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu tabled her 2022/23 budget in Parliament, she said R44-billion had been allocated for the SRD grant, which would be paid to about 10.9 million South Africans every month.
However Institute of Economic Justice co-founder and director Neil Coleman, told Maverick Citizen that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has still not paid out April and May grants. With regards to June payments, he said:
“The exclusion level is absolutely horrendous; over 10 million people applied for June and only five million people were approved, which means that there has been a reduction of nearly six million people when you compare it to March…there’s never been such a low approval rate which is the product of all these problematic procedures that they’ve put in place.”
The IEJ and Black Sash along with other NGOs have been monitoring and advocating for the outstanding payments of SRD grants that extend as far back as April 2022.
Kgothatso Sibanda who manages Black Sash’s Help Line said that “The new reason for declining appellants is ‘Self Exclusionary Response Found’” [information on an application that indicates a recipient is receiving support funds from elsewhere totalling more than R350 per month]. Sibanda said that the reason given by Sassa to unsuccessful applicants was its systems had found that “they have support from relatives”.
“It is also surprising that Sassa was able to give outcomes for June payments while April and May are still pending for most.
“What has not been confirmed as yet is the issue of reconfirmation of the SRD grant every three [months]. Do appellants have to reconfirm that they still qualify for the grant? If this is the case, how is it communicated to those affected as reconfirmation needs to be done now in July?” asked Sibanda.
Black Sash and IEJ announced on 23 June that they would be launching urgent litigation against government for its failure to pay out the backlog of SRD grants.
“Black Sash has gone above and beyond to engage the government. Litigation is a last resort, that’s why we waited this long since the initial engagement with the President in January. We remain open to having conversations that will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” said Black Sash national director Rachel Bukasa at a press conference announcing the litigation.
Black Sash spokesperson Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker told Maverick Citizen that the minister of social development Lindiwe Zulu had filed a notice to defend the matter and that there had as yet been no formal response from the other respondents in the matter.
Maverick Citizen sent Sassa questions asking for an update on how the payment of SRD grants was going. Spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi responded saying:
“We have completed the assessments for the new iteration of the SRD in June 2022. All applicants have been notified of the outcome of their assessments…and we have completed these as far as possible where accurate records exist for the applicants’ preferred choice of payment. In some instances applicants do not capture their bank or alternative payment details accurately on their application, and thus delaying payment until such time that this rectified.”
Regarding re-application for the SRD grant, Letsatsi said that “An applicant does not have to apply every month, but they are assessed every month to determine if they qualify for the grant. Due to the delay in the start of the assessments a backlog resulted for the months of April and May for the current iteration of the SRD. This backlog will be dealt with as follows: The month of April will be assessed and paid in the month of July. The month of May will be assessed and paid in the month of August.”
In regard to the exclusion of almost 6 million people, Letsatsi said:
“The main reason for the decline of applications are:
- Applicants were found on other government databases indicating that they have some form of support;
- Applicants have responded either in their declaration or assessment questionnaire that they have alternative forms of support and/or income; and
- Applicant bank accounts reflect that they have an income source in excess of the prescribed threshold.
“Should legal action be taken around payment of the SRD grant, it is very unlikely that Sassa would oppose the matter as we are already paying the grant and intending to clear all backlogs as quick as reasonably possible,” Letsatsi said.
Letsatsi told Maverick Citizen that Sassa apologises for the delays experienced by beneficiaries as a result of the new system they were implementing, describing them as “teething problems”.
“However we will continue to assess and make payments as further refinement of the systems are made, and we don’t foresee these challenges requiring us to change our commitment to clear all backlogs by the end of August.” DM/MC