Yesterday, the Department of Social Development appeared before the Standing Committee on Appropriations to present its proposed allocation of R26.7 billion to the Social Distress Relief (SRD) grant (R26.2 billion) and to South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) (R500 million).

The department also reported on the adoption, distribution and challenges faced by Sassa during the deployment of the Covid-19 SRD and the extension of the grant. The department engaged with the committee on the proposed allocations to convince them of their inclusion in the special appropriations bill following the unrest that took place in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July of this year and on the extension of the SRD.

The committee heard that most of the SRD goes to the post office. The chairman of the committee, Mr. Sfiso Buthelezi, called for more explanation on the factors which stifle the distribution of grants and which sometimes prevent them from reaching legitimate beneficiaries. He wanted more explanation of the existence of embezzlement and the relationship between the ministry and the grant distributors.

In response, Sassa’s Managing Director (CEO) Ms Busisiwe Memela-Khambula told the committee that 70% of beneficiaries receive their grants through the post. She pointed out that Sassa is the payer and that the post office and other banks are only the distributors. She assured the committee that there is generally a healthy relationship between Sassa and the post office.

The committee heard that the prisoners had also applied for the SRD when the subsidy was introduced last year and that there were people who came to claim for the prisoners. Ms Memela-Khambula told the committee that no grant had been made to a prisoner and that there was no beneficiary in their database who was a prisoner.

The committee welcomed the proposed allocations, given the blatant worsening of poverty levels in which the majority of South Africans live. Mr Bulethezi said the most vulnerable South Africans should not suffer alone; the government has to make sure they eat. He added that the environment “in which we find ourselves is limited. We must be attentive to the poor.

Mr. Buthelezi stressed that the 26.7 billion rand is not withdrawn from the economy, as it will return in their contribution to economic growth. He called on the Minister of the Department of Social Development, Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, who headed the department’s delegation, to ensure that the post of director general is filled. The Minister assured the committee that the process is underway to fill the position.

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