GOOD speech by Brett Herron,
GOOD: Secretary-General & Member of Parliament
13 May 2022
Note: This is the speech that was delivered by GOOD Secretary-General and Member of Parliament, Brett Herron, during today’s Parliamentary Budget Vote on Social Development.
This week, according to news reports, the City of Cape Town issued fines of up to R1000 to homeless people living on the streets.
We don’t know how many, if any, of those who received fines are beneficiaries of the R350 Social Relief Grant. But we can be pretty sure that most don’t have jobs – and will never afford to pay the fines.
Their situation may be extreme – most poor people don’t live on the streets. But it illustrates how marginal life is in our radically unequal society.
As millions of our most needy compatriots seek to manage the consequences of having to reapply for the R350 Social Relief Grant, for which some no longer qualify due to changes to the rules, the State continues to hum and haw over the implementation of a Basic Income Grant.
When the R350 grant was introduced to soften the economic blows of the Covid pandemic, it was available to people with an income of less than R595. But that’s now been reduced to R350.
This appears to indicate that the state believed it was possible to survive on an income of R945 under Covid disaster conditions, but R700 now that the state of disaster has been lifted.
Although parliamentarians earn a fortune by comparison, we can’t pretend we don’t know how little R700 buys.
Nor can we close our eyes to the social consequences of millions of people not being able to afford the basic costs of life to feed, clothe and secure their families.
The influential former Minister of Finance and Governor of the Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, says the government should rather invest in rebuilding the country’s economy by investing in infrastructure than in social grants. Yes, we need infrastructure, and developing it will create jobs.
But should the people starve while they await economic boom times? Did Mr Mboweni not notice the ease with which poor people were manipulated into an orgy of looting and destruction last July?
Now that the Covid State of Disaster has been lifted, government must not sit back and let the grass grow under its feet.
For the sustainability and dignity of the country, we need to accelerate the process of implementing a BIG, not shove the discussion back under the carpet.
Nelson Mandela said: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
Government must take heed of the situation on the ground. Our citizens did not shed their blood and tears for a democracy that would abandon them in poverty.
Besides issues of dignity and justice, failing to implement a Basic Income Grant is fuelling a fire that will eradicate the gains we have made in the democratic era and prove difficult and expensive to extinguish.
Brett Herron, GOOD: Secretary-General & Member of Parliament
Samkelo Mgobozi, GOOD: Media Manager
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