The Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu last Friday gazetted new regulations to govern the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant of R350.
Previously the SRD grant was governed by regulations under the State of Disaster Act, which has since been lifted. It was introduced to assist those left destitute by the Covid-19 lock down. The new regulations are different in one important respect: qualifying applicants must be poorer than before, raising the possibility that some who previously got the grant will no longer be able to do so.
The income criteria for access to the grant was previously a ceiling of R595, which was the food poverty line at the time. Anyone with income over R595 was excluded from the grant. The new income threshold is lower at R350. Anyone with income above that will not qualify for a grant.
Activists who have championed the grant are disappointed at the change. The pro-social grant lobby wants eligibility, in the future, to be set at a higher income level and be progressively more generous. However, the “means test” to determine whether an individual is eligible is not very comprehensive and has been criticised both for shutting people out who are eligible and letting others who do not qualify in.
Zulu has not yet explained the reason and her spokesperson Lumka Olifant said over the weekend that the minister would hold a press briefing soon.
The other criteria are the same as those under the State of Disaster Act. South Africans over the age of 18, as well as asylum seekers with up-to-date documentation and foreigners from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Angola and Malawi who are in possession of a Special Dispensation permit may apply for the grant.
When the SRD was first put in place in April 2020, it was restricted to South Africans and permanent residents only. A successful court application by refugee rights group Scalabrini Centre in June 2020, resulted in eligibility being extended to foreigners with certain documentation. Undocumented migrants remain excluded.
According to the latest statistics, 10.65 million are receiving the grant. The grant has been extended up to the end of March 2023, by which time government has promised a final decision on whether a permanent basic income grant will be introduced.
To access the grant, applicants must not be receiving any other social grant for themselves. This excludes child support grants which are received by parents on behalf of their children.
Applications are cross-checked against various data bases and financial institutions to determine eligibility.