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A household grant is a bad idea — a Basic Income Grant is a necessity


Israel Nkuna is a ward committee representative and community activist in Mahlathi Village, Limpopo.

We don’t want a BIG out of laziness, we need it because, without it, our poverty will kill us. If I ask any woman or man in my community if they want to work, they will say ‘I am ready to work — just tell me where and when’. The BIG and decent-paying jobs must happen together. 

My name is Israel Nkuna, a community activist from a small village called Mahlathi near Giyani in Limpopo, who receives the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant. Every month, I assist around 500 people in all nine provinces with their SRD grant applications. 

I have serious questions about the ‘household grant’ that we hear the National Treasury is considering. 

Who is the head of a household — is it a man who has a wife and children in Mahlathi but spends months living and working in North West, where he has another family? Which household will receive the household grant? What will happen if the man receives the household grant and withholds it from the family? Or if the mother receives the grant, but she’s not able to spend it on herself and her children because of an abusive husband?

What about a family with no parents, just young brothers and sisters, some with drinking and drug problems? Who receives the household grant, and how will you make sure everyone in that family can buy food and put money aside?

How will the government register all these families and heads of families, and make sure this grant gets to the people who need it? 

These questions trouble me, especially when I think about all the problems we’ve had with the SRD grant. The Treasury says they have consulted with people. But they haven’t consulted with people like me and those in my village — if they had, they would know the problems we face.

The majority of people I help with SRD applications don’t know technology and don’t have smartphones to apply for the grant. Even if I can assist them, the Sassa system often declines them. How will a family grant application work any better? 

We need a Basic Income Grant/guarantee (BIG) without a complicated, faulty application process. We need a BIG at a decent level that’s given to individuals so they can access their own funds. 

And we need it now. 

There are many things we have to pay for to survive in my community. A simple thing like getting water is a problem — I have to spend R5 for 20 litres of water and I don’t have a choice. We have a gravel road that is in a bad state — if we need to buy something in town, if we have to go to a government office, if we want to get our sick relatives to a clinic, we have to pay to get there. We don’t have a choice.

If we want to look for work, we have to pay, too. But there is no work to be found for many of us in our community. For someone over 40, if they don’t have work now, they are not going to find it for the rest of their life.

We don’t want a BIG out of laziness, we need it because without it, our poverty will kill us. If I ask any woman or man in my community if they want to work, they will say ‘I am ready to work — just tell me where and when’. The BIG and decent-paying jobs must happen together. 

My community believes in education. But our daughters and sons cannot learn if they cannot eat. They cannot learn if they can’t afford the bus or the taxi fare to get to school. They cannot learn if they see their family around them starving. 

A BIG would support families so it’s easier to send our daughters and sons back to class. 

For those people like me, who do receive the SRD, we are able to buy maize meal, cooking oil, potatoes, soap, and washing powder. But R350 is equal to R11 a day — that’s not enough to live on. I’m unable to buy clothes and healthy foods. I’m unable to save money to go to the clinic when I feel sick. I’m unable to save to pay a funeral parlour for a deceased relative, or to buy the many things that are needed in a household.

The BIG would be a guarantee — not a handout — that everyone in this country can have their basic needs met. What else should our government be working towards?

Let’s make the BIG something South Africans can be proud of, not something to be ashamed of. Let it save lives, save our daughters and sons from starvation, let our women live safely, let all people live with dignity, give them a chance to build something and contribute to their communities and our economy. Let us resist a household grant and insist on a BIG for individuals. DM/MC


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  • Josie Rowe-Setz says:

    Mr Nkuna is correct. Without a BIG at some level there will be a malnourished and cognitively disabled next generatiom. Finding the funds for this is an imperative on many levels including humanitarian. Matters will be made worse in coming years with increases in heat and drought..many will be food insecure

  • Peter Atkins says:

    The few experiments with a BIG around the first world have been successful and have had positive outcomes. So why are we waiting? A BIG ticks many of the boxes for the benefit of the majority of SA’s population: improve access to the basics of life, education, transport, gender inequality reduction, and would increase the amount of money in circulation, thus helping our economy. The only downside is that some of us would pay higher taxes – and that is as it should be.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    “Giyani residents vote ANC back into power despite poor service delivery”. Come on Israel, what exactly is the problem here?
    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein.
    I feel you know instinctively what the problem is, but you cannot admit to what the REAL solution is.
    Have a look at what your party of choice has done to the job creators – intensified labour laws limiting job mobility in terms of hiring and firing, enforced racial profiling in the work place through employment equity in the BBBEE framework, enforced uneconomic shareholding structures in many firms through the same framework, deployed taxes paid by these firms to finance a scandalous arms deal, only to have this followed up by the Zupta years of plunder.
    Now, in the aftermath of your party’s plundering of the goodwill and taxes of the job creators, the ANC’s neglect of and disdain for the impoverished citizens of Mahlathi, you want a BIG because there are no jobs? And you still support the people who did this to you by returning Giyani to the ANC?

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    For me, two issues:
    1. I am a white male who earns more than 80% of my income working for foreign companies as my job opportunities here are almost zero and lot of that has to do with ANC policies and laws. However, I pay more than 50% of my foreign earnings in tax so that this government can pay, over and above the BIG, free housing, free schooling, free medical aid, etc, etc. I just pay and pay and pay and get almost nothing in return.
    2. The taxes that remain after all the graft and mismanagement now has to support people that seemingly do not understand that they too have a huge responsibility in all of this in terms of the vote they cast and having children far beyond their means. When the poor start taking some responsibility for their situation, I will come to the party. That said: I do support actions to help children as they had no voice or choice when they were brought into the world by irresponsible parents.

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