First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Mr President: ‘Make a BIG a flagship project and give...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Mr President: ‘Make a BIG a flagship project and give us hope again’

mm

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

A Basic Income Guarantee is a moral choice. It could be a national project the rest of the world could learn from. And national projects that are important, and that the whole country believes in, are projects we can always find the funding for.

Dear Mr President,

I am writing once again from Mahlathi, a village near Giyani in Limpopo, to talk about hope.

Let me tell you what the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant of R350 has done for people in Mahlathi – including myself: I’ve been able to buy 10kg of maize meal, potatoes, a little cooking oil and washing powder. 

I have written before about the problems with the application process, and my opinion that R350 is far too little. But the SRD grant has been the difference between life and death for many of us. It’s also given us hope that there might be a tomorrow, and that people with the power and the resources have noticed our suffering.

A Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), set at an amount that would allow people to drag themselves out of poverty, could be the proudest thing South Africa has done since 1994’s elections. A BIG could help millions of us, and give us hope again. 

A BIG could be our flagship project. I don’t need to be an economist to know the difference it could make – I see it for myself in my village, where children drop out of school, fall into depression and drug use, where people have lost all hope.

A BIG is a moral choice. It could be a national project the rest of the world could learn from. And national projects that are important, and that the whole country believes in, are projects we can always find the funding for. You just have to make the decision – on behalf of the majority of people in this country who it would save. (And if you’re not making decisions on their behalf, we have to ask: on whose behalf are you making decisions?)

A BIG will put food on our tables and hope in our hearts. 

Anybody who thinks a BIG will make people lazy have not lived our lives of poverty – they do not know the hopelessness that comes from an empty stomach, of seeing your children leave school, of not having a job, of not having the taxi fare to even look for a job, of not having spare money to start the smallest of businesses, of not having the chance to save for a future, of not having a future. And they have not seen the people of my village try to make a life for themselves even though they have these difficulties. 

Mr President, I have helped thousands of people around the country with their SRD application process. Yes, there are problems with it, but I have also received thousands of messages asking me whether the SRD grant will be extended. The grant is small – too small – but it has saved people. Take it away and you snatch away the crumbs that kept them alive, and you snatch away their hope for a future. 

When it comes time for your State of the Nation Address this year, I hope you will keep in mind my village of Mahlathi and the people who are asking whether the grant will be extended. More than extending it, I believe we should grow it into a decent Basic Income Grant of R1,500, without qualifying criteria.

We need to stop thinking about the BIG as something we are forced to put in place, a grudge decision. We should make it a positive – something the whole country can get behind. It could be something rich corporations and individuals will be proud to contribute to. It’s a chance at solidarity that we need desperately, and something that might even bring hope – to rich and poor in South Africa. DM/MC

Israel Nkuna is a community activist who has written about the problems facing grant applicants and offered voluntary assistance for thousands of SRD applicants nationwide. Recently, he was elected as ward committee representative at Mahlathi Village near Giyani, Limpopo.

 

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 6

  • Hope is not given by the state, president or public sector. Hope is given by citizens who create, innovate, work hard and in clever ways to make themselves better off. In short, hope comes from private initiative, not state initiative.

  • Hope is not given by the state, president or public sector. Hope is given by citizens who create, innovate, work hard and in clever ways to make themselves better off. In short, hope comes from private initiative, not state initiative.

  • I hear the writers plea, and pain. BUT. The term Basic Income Grant (BIG) is an oxymoron – it defeats itself. Income is earned. A ‘Grant’ is a freebie. Rather have a Community Services Income (CSI), or similar term. Something with incentive to work and get a skill. The harder you work, the more income you get. Ideas:= waste collection, alien plant eradication, street cleaning, river and stream clearing, security at public places, tidy and care for a community park, work at a community market garden, help the elderly across the road at busy intersections, learn first aid and attend sports events – like the old St Johns Ambulance did, lifesaving, paint government and municipal buildings, fix road potholes, prevent scrap iron and copper cable theft, clean stormwater drains and pipes, make overalls, etc etc. Get the nation working and raise self esteem. A BIG on its own will not raise self esteem and get people out looking for, or making a job/career. Without a return or benefit to society, a BIG is unaffordable to South Africa. My late father used to say to us children, ‘if you don’t have a job, you actually have a 8 hour per day job getting out and finding work’. ‘Work’ is different to a job. It is much more meaningful.

    • Essentially, a large chunk of low-skill workers are redundant – the economy does not need them. So wages are out. All your activity suggestions may only have the effect of displacing another worker and taking his place. Or maybe you are suggesting low education people with no resources must become entrepreneurs and start businesses. Even rich, well-educated people can’t grow the economy.
      I presume you did not have a choice of the circumstances you were born into. If you knew that next year you will be born again in SA under unpredictable circumstances, would you want the country to have a BIG or not? Or are you so superior that you will make good regardless?

  • There’s a great deal of ignorance around BIG being shown by Maverick Insiders who clearly have enough spare money to support great journalism. There is in fact excellent evidence of the impact of cash transfers to poor members of society. The organisation JPAL even won the Nobel Prize for Economics for work in this area. What is clear is that people spend the money wisely, they don’t spend it on alcohol or other drugs, they don’t become lazy, they don’t lose initiative, they gain it. In short, a few readers would do well to look at the evidence before that comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted