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Fact Check – will social grants and NSFAS disappear if the ANC loses power?

Fact Check – will social grants and NSFAS disappear if the ANC loses power?
The social relief of distress grant was introduced in 2020 as a Covid-19 emergency relief initiative. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

The ANC claims that it is the only party that can ensure that social grants and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme are not scrapped in future. We checked what opposition parties have promised to do if they were elected into office.

In January, President Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly told an ANC rally in Mpumalanga that only the ANC could be relied on to keep supporting South Africa’s poor through social grants and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

According to The Citizen, Ramaphosa said there were no guarantees that other South African political parties would continue with these poverty-alleviation programmes if the ANC was voted out of power. 

He said: “We do not know if these other organisations will have the determination we have,” in terms of uplifting the disadvantaged.

His comments caused outrage from opposition parties. But is there any basis for Ramaphosa’s allegations?

As analyst Khaya Sithole has pointed out, all together more than 20 million South Africans, as of 2023, cumulatively relied on the fairly meagre financial support provided by NSFAS via student funding and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) via social grants. Any new government which suddenly proposed doing away with these financial lifelines would be in for a world of pain in terms of both social unrest and constitutional challenges.

But beyond that: What have opposition parties actually promised when it comes to student funding and social grants?

The DA has fought the social grant claim from the ANC before, which is why its social development policy explicitly states: “Social grants are a constitutional right and any suggestion that the DA would take them away if elected into national government is patently false and misleading.”

When it comes to detailed pledges about social grants, the DA specifies just one, which is that the Child Support Grant would increase under a DA government – from R510 a month to R760. 

DA leader John Steenhuisen did add in a recent newsletter, however, that the DA also supports a basic income grant in theory – “but only in the context of economic growth that makes it affordable and viable”.

As for student funding, the DA proposes comprehensive reforms to NSFAS. This would see students from poorer households have access to government loans, to be repaid later, but also with the possibility of scholarships for high academic achievement. 

Moving on to other opposition parties: EFF leader Julius Malema recently promised voters that an EFF government would increase the current R350 hardship grant introduced during Covid on a sliding scale based on your educational qualification, rising to R6,000 a month if you have an honours degree. The EFF has also pledged free basic services to everyone who gets a social grant. As for student funding, the EFF’s 2019 manifesto says it will cancel all student debt and provide free higher education “until a first degree” for all.

The third-largest party in South Africa, the IFP, actually takes credit for the whole idea of social grants, pointing out in a recent newsletter from leader Velenkosini Hlabisa that the government of KwaZulu under Mangosuthu Buthelezi introduced social grants “long before democracy”. The IFP, too, says it will stick with social grants and potentially increase them.

The IFP’s 2019 manifesto does not specify exactly how it wants students to be funded, but an October 2023 statement from the party referred to NSFAS as having “critical importance”. 

Newer parties seem to be similarly keen on social grants: Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA says it would expand them and introduce a new basic income grant. Rise Mzansi says it favours a combination of income grants and other measures, such as food vouchers for grant recipients.

Of course, political parties can promise voters anything before they get into power. Before the last elections, for instance, the EFF promised that it would equip every South African school with an in-house orthodontist. 

But there seems little doubt, given the state of local unemployment, that any party or parties which succeeded in dislodging the ANC in the upcoming elections would have to maintain a robust social welfare system in the current environment – or risk complete anarchy. DM 

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  • Colin Braude says:

    More to the point, under the ANC’s mismanagement of the economy, how long will SA be able *afford* even the most meagre of social grants or safety nets?

    We need a new regimen, one where the majority are not lumpen clients of a “capable state” [sic] patronage network, but are enabled and empowered (by education) to create enough wealth for themselves.

  • Kevin Schaafsma says:

    It’s actually even worse than Davis here puts it. The ANC leads the social grant recipients, who are largely uneducated, to believe it’s the ANC paying them the grant. Which will stop if they do not vote for the ANC. And in a genocidal fashion, the ANC deliberately keeps its electoral base uneducated and poor, so that they rely on the grants and can’t understand that a different government world enable more foreign investment to flow into the country and stem the massive brain drain of taxpayers leaving the country. This would lead to more and better schools, power stations and hospitals etc being built. And of course the uneducated masses can’t understand the extent of State Capture and the damage is done.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      “the ANC deliberately keeps its electoral base uneducated and poor” – quite right. As we have the ‘New’ Apartheid from them, now we’ve got the ‘New’ Bantu Education. They learnt well from Ol’ Hendrik V and his fairy tales!! Trouble is, they’re not even good hewers of wood or drawers of water…

    • Caroline de Braganza says:

      I would like to point out that there are many white South Africans who rely on social grants for survival, including me. Older persons grants have been in existence since the early 20th Century, at first for whites and coloureds only, and then in the 1940’s this was extended to blacks and asians.

      Many grant recipients are educated, but poor, so I take offence at your generic statement that we believe the ANC pays the grants. Why not fact check first, instead of lumping us together as a homogeneous bunch of idiots.

  • PJ T says:

    As Dame Margaret said – the trouble with socialism is that sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.

  • Rugby Fan says:

    The DA says nothing about the SASSA Disability grant? also increased in line with child support or ignored?

  • Speaking From Experience says:

    The question is: for how long will the government (ANC) still be able to borrow money to pay the grants? We will reach a stage where no sane entity will be willing to borrow money to South Africa because we will not be able to service our debt.

  • Cecilia Limson says:

    The DA will pull this country back to its former glory. But remember Rome was not build in a day. But the DA can do it

  • Sharon S says:

    DM well done, this is way overdue ! The ANC relies on the uneducated massess for their votes. These people have been fed a big lie continuous by the ANC in that their grants will dissappear if ANC is not in power. I have personally canvassed and spoke with well over 100 people ( that live in townships ) and they absolutely believe the ANC lies and propaganda – and even though they are disgruntled wit hthe ANC they continue to vote ANC solely because they believ that ANC = Grants . their is a disconnect with reality and how government actually functions . The truth meeds to be spoken – we need to speak with our staff and share this information and ensure that they understand the truth that Grants will be provided no matter WHO is in power that grants are provided by the government – NOT a political party. Too many times we and even the opposition parties fail to see things through the eyes and understanding of the populace masses. Debunking this lie is critical to Rescue South Africa from the failed state position the ANC has put it in . Take this link and share it with your staff and send to all of your friends and colleages to do the same . Let this go viral !

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