A group of social justice organisations has warned that millions of poor South Africans may not receive Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants in April – and that hundreds of thousands will be excluded in future due to new changes about who can qualify.
The group – which includes Black Sash, Institute for Economic Justice and Social Policy Initiative – says the department of social development and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) halted application processing for April “without explanation”.
“(This) despite the fact that they were clearly mandated under transitional measures gazetted on April 4.”
In addition, under new regulations that were gazetted last week, “hundreds of thousands” may excluded from receiving the R350 at all in future.
The new regulations require that qualifying applicants must be poorer than before.
“That is shocking, inhumane, regressive, and leaves millions of people living below the food poverty line ineligible for government assistance,” the group said. It claims that it is “an open secret that this is a result of Treasury’s intransigence in refusing to even agree to the timid provisions in the draft regulations”.
The regulations also state that applications must be lodged before the 15th of the month in order to receive payment for that month – and given that the regulations were gazetted on Friday 22, clarity is needed as to the timeframe for processing payments.
The group seeks urgent clarity from the Department of Social Development (DSD) as to whether those who were previously approved to receive a payment in April, will still receive this payment regardless of whether their new application is approved, and also whether those who apply under the new framework will be back paid for April.
“It appears that by suspending April processing and payments, and now wiping the slate clean of previously approved grant obligations, the April SRD grants are in jeopardy for millions of South Africans.
“While Treasury and DSD may have saved themselves a lot of money in April, this will be at the expense of the poor.”
The group said that efficient administration of the Social Relief of Distress grant this month is all the more critical in light of the humanitarian disaster that has unfolded in KZN.