President Cyril Ramaphosa announced social grant increases on Tuesday in his state of the nation address.

Many South Africans have not been able to go to work or participate in any economic activity during the lockdown period. This has led to dramatic deepening of poverty and food insecurity levels among the most vulnerable people in the country.

In response, the government has allocated R50 billion towards social grants in order to relieve the “plight of those who are most desperately affected by the coronavirus”.

The child support grant will be increased by R300 in May and thereafter by R500 each month from June to October. 

Other grant beneficiaries will receive an added R250 per month to their normal grants for the next six months until October.

Government has also established a Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month that will also be paid until October for people who are unemployed and do not qualify for a grant or payment from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. 

The Department of Social Development will provide more details on the requirements needed to access and apply for this funding.

Food support 

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) will also be rolling out a “technology-based solution” that will supplement government’s current efforts to distribute food packages, by introducing vouchers and cash transfers. 

This comes as local and provincial governments struggle to distribute food packages at scale in a quick and efficient manner, as the packages run out while many poor and desperate people are still waiting in line for assistance. At the same time, there have been multiple reports of officials stealing or selling the food packages meant for the poor. 

Ramaphosa said these reports are “disturbing” and government will not hesitate to ensure that these “unscrupulous people” will face legal consequences for stealing from initiatives that are meant to provide relief for the vulnerable. 

In the next two weeks the Department of Social Development together with the Solidarity Fund, non-governmental organisations and other community-based organisations will distribute 250 000 food parcels across the country.