Despondency surrounds SRD grant ahead of 2024 budget

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s failure to outline a concrete plan to address the various issues surrounding the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) has diminished optimism among human rights organisations regarding the upcoming budget speech.

It has been nearly seven months since the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) and Pay The Grants launched an application at the North Gauteng High Court, contesting the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant regulations. The application, filed in July of last year, addressed the unjust exclusion of millions of individuals from the SRD grant and the “reduction in the grant’s value over time”.


However, since then, the concerns raised in the lawsuit have not only persisted but deteriorated. “None of the issues raised in our application have been addressed. Since we filed our application, the situation has worsened, as the National Treasury proposed to further cut the budget for the SRD grant in the MTPBS, meaning fewer people will be able to receive it if this is taken forward in the 2024 budget,” said Dr Kelle Howson, labour and social security researcher at the IEJ.

Howson continued: “The value of the grant has been further eroded by inflation. Because of high food inflation over the past year, Statistics South Africa increased the food poverty line by a drastic 14%, from R663 to R760. This means the SRD grant value is now less than half of the food poverty line, which denotes the minimum monthly income a person needs to meet their daily caloric intake requirements.”

She further mentioned that while the Department of Social Development has distributed draft policy proposals to tackle certain issues highlighted in the IEJ’s application, such as raising the means test threshold and the grant’s value, “no firm commitments have been made by the government, and no indications of timeframes given”.

While serving as a lifeline for many, the SRD grant issues appear ceaseless. Elizabeth Raiters, the deputy chairperson at Pay The Grants, who has been steadfast in aiding beneficiaries affected by various grant payment failures, has expressed her dismay regarding the ongoing challenges surrounding the SRD grant.

Just under a month ago, Sassa suspended payments to approximately 70 000 recipients due to the “verification of beneficiary banking details”. However, the suspension or delay of payments is not a novel occurrence. “Over a million people are approved with no pay dates. The cases we are currently dealing with date back to 2021. There are people as far as 2021 that have been approved, non-stop, that have not been paid,” said Raiters.

“For the last few months, Sassa has not worked on any historical payments – nothing.”

Diminished expectations ahead of upcoming budget speech

With little change observed regarding the ongoing issues and a growing sense of despair following the President’s State of the Nation Address, people are not holding their breath in anticipation of next week’s budget speech.


“I don’t see any high hopes for the SRD coming from Treasury as Treasury has filed and asked, late last year, to be the third respondent in our litigation, and we’ve allowed them to do so, and we already know from their answering affidavit that they are pleading that the government does not have money,” said Raiters.

“So, we don’t expect anything good to come from Treasury regarding the SRD grant.”

Howson stated on the upcoming budget: “We hope the minister will acknowledge that the SRD grant is a permanent feature of the social assistance framework and budget and must be adequately resourced until it is transitioned into a comprehensive basic income grant.”

She continued: “National Treasury must also reverse the erosion in the value of the grant and increase the means-test threshold so it is available to everyone who needs it. We have proposed that the grant should be immediately increased to the same value as the Child Support Grant (CSG) (currently R510), and both the CSG and SRD should increase to the food poverty line (currently R760) in November 2024.”

While all these propositions seem like viable options, Howson remains optimistic, stating: “Whilst these are the minimum steps required to uphold the right to social assistance, we have seen Treasury repeatedly attempt to undermine and terminate the SRD grant. We are not optimistic, therefore, that the required change will come from Treasury’s initiative. Parliament and Cabinet must hold them accountable for their duty to the public.”