South Africa must stop paying SASSA social grants
Independent Writer at Africanism Magazine
The model of grants in its simplicity is not good for South Africa. South Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants must be replaced with Expanded Public Works Program (“EPWP”) stipends. South Africa must revise the current grants system and channel these grants towards supporting EPWP, which must be expanded to include community economic development activities.
The current structure of social grants simply creates and encourages a culture of laziness. The able beneficiaries of the grants are unemployed, and they should rather earn stipends for achieving predetermined hours per month towards a community development project/s. South Africa must apply a principle of no community project involvement, no stipend. The beneficiaries will actively demand projects in their communities and this will advance community develop, and that is what is desperately needed by South Africa.
Social grants beneficiaries are for sale
Politicians are using grants as a carrot for votes and unfortunately the stick is poverty. It is understandable why politicians want to keep the majority in poverty. They are afraid that once the poor can be economically empowered, they will become independent and their votes will not be guaranteed. Political leaders are failing to respond to rising youth unemployment, instead of developing sustainable solutions, they keep on advocating for increased social grants. They tell the poor what they want to hear - that the grants (more especially child support grants) should be increased. Promoting the current social grants system is reactionary and anti-revolutionary, is a clear indication that they do not care about the poor and the country. If they cared, they would be proposing cultural regeneration. Cultural regeneration will only happen when people earn what they deserve instead of charity. Every South African must be given an opportunity to earn a living if they contribute to the development of the country. It does not matter the quantum of their contribution, the main measure is that at least they will be contributing towards developing their communities.
Nearly 20% of South Africans have been put in extreme poverty since democracy. The number of South Africans who benefit from social grants has more than doubled over the last 20 years. Politicians are destroying the country by putting more and more youth on social grants. They are converting potential economic engine into charity case. The reality is that South Africa cannot afford to be a welfare state.
Cost of distribution
The whole tender mixed-masala of 2014 and 2017 between SASSA and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) about the grants distribution contract should have given South Africa a warning that the current grants structure is not best for the country. The method of distribution is expensive and corrupt. South Africa has a network of economic cluster departments (i.e. Agriculture, Rural Development, Economic Development, Trade and Industry, Developmental Funding Institutions, Public Works etc.) that can be used to distribute the stipends, there is no need for a private distribution company to make billions by distributing the grants; those billions could be saved and put into community projects.
SASSA as a standalone institution is wasteful and must be incorporated into the Department of Public Works or Independent Development Trust (“IDT”). Contractors provided work through government tenders must employ a certain minimum number of workers from EPWP.
Furthermore, the method of distribution also has negative psychological effects on the nation. South Africa is psychologically damaging South Africa by paying the grants through social development. The source of the funds may sound insignificant however social development represent charity and that supports the entitlement mentality that we have developed as a country. Beneficiaries of social grants unconsciously feel like they are charity cases and they stop trying to earn a living and they become choosy. Converting the grants to EPWP will boost confidence and pride of the beneficiaries and will motivate some to develop businesses out of the program.
Unlike the current EPWP structure EPWP of temporary work for the unemployed to carry out socially useful activities, the new stipends should be permanent. In addition, the program must be expanded to include all economic activities in communities. The proposal is that people should not just be given money but they should earn it. Productivity of those activities is another story. The principle is that the stipends must be earned and it must be increased from the current level because beneficiaries will be contributing towards economic development activities.
The current EPWP provides an important avenue for labour absorption and income transfers to poor households in the short to medium-term, the proposed program should provide economic development opportunities and EPWP Projects must employ workers on permanent basis in economic development projects.
South Africa cannot continue to promote a nation that is sitting around waiting for social grants. Government should develop projects in each community. The key is to get beneficiaries to be economically active; the value contribution of these projects will be assessed at a later stage as long as the beneficiaries are moved from receiving grants to earning stipends. Imagine the economic impact if social grants beneficiaries are paid stipends to make bricks, tiles, hydroponics, aquaponics, running community retail shop, cultural villages etc. These economic activities will revitalise rural economies.
Our achievement in the field of poverty eradication, by any measure, is pathetic. The social grants are not necessarily bad, but their structure does not meet the need to economically liberate Africans from poverty. Social grants may have helped marginally, but it is misleading to use social grants as a yard-stick for measuring economic progress; it does not help South Africa to focus on fictitious poverty reduction policies, instead it should focus on genuine economic development strategies. Social grants are making poverty look slightly better, while in reality is hauling Africans deeper into poverty. The EPWP will get South African economically active and economic inequality will be narrowed.
Communities must be granted power and resources to initiate and implement their own community projects. Government must just be a monitoring agent that ensures that only deserving projects are allocated funding. South Africa should target a significant percentage of social grants to be spent on projects that create economic activities in communities. The program must encourage better trade between communities to improve economic activities between communities. Money should circulate in communities longer than it currently does. This will stimulate economic development in poor communities. South Africa will lift the bottom into economic activities and the economy will be developed from bottom up. The bottom should be a priority.
Perpetuation of entitlement mentality
The current structure of the social grants perpetuates the culture of Africans expecting things for free, the mentality of entitlement as if the world owes us something. South Africa should encourage a culture of people believing that they can lift themselves out of poverty (with, of course, a little encouragement from government policies). Government should sponsor economic activities to create an economic ripple affect amongst poor people. South Africans must develop a culture of achieving more with the little that they have. Social grants may have worked in some countries, but that is not what South Africa and Africa needs.