An activist organisation says a basic income grant is feasible in SA.
- The #PayTheGrants organisation is calling for a universal basic income guarantee of R1 500.
- The government has been looking at costing it at the food poverty line of R624 per month.
- This comes ahead of the president’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday.
Ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday night, #PayTheGrants, a campaign under the C19 People’s Coalition, is calling for a universal basic income guarantee (UBIG) of a minimum of R1 500.
Government and other organisations have been looking at a basic income grant around the level of the food poverty line of R624 per month.
In a statement on Thursday, the organisation said this amount was not enough to live on but acknowledged it was far better than the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant currently being paid out each month.
The call comes in the wake of rising food costs, rising unemployment rates and rising debts especially facing the poor of the country.
“This SONA, we expect the same unfortunate lack of vision, meaningful change or effective solutions from the South African government. The reality is that South Africa’s problems are deep, far-reaching and structural, and only massive structural change can really begin to address them,” the statement reads.
“In light of the kind of change that is needed to address the many devastating problems faced by the vast majority of working-class people, a UBIG of R1 500 is an easy and obvious solution.”
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The organisation believes this UBIG will bring a start to justice for the economic crimes of apartheid “since it would entail wealth redistribution via a progressive tax and other means of payment”.
According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity’s Household Affordability Index for January 2023, the average cost of the household food basket is R4 917.42 for a family of four.
The #PayTheGrants movement says this is “completely unaffordable” for most people.
“Debts are skyrocketing and so is child malnutrition. Rising unemployment is a structural feature of the system, currently 35% overall and 70% for youth without any signs of improvement.
“Furthermore, women and caregivers who bear the brunt of unpaid labour are not even considered part of our economic system, they are automatically excluded.”
It said the UBIG would ensure the survival and basic dignity of the majority in the country, and it believes this sum is not charity but “a constitutionally guaranteed right to ensure that the most basic means of survival are met for the working class”.
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The organisation said it was calling for a universal income grant because this would ensure there was no exclusion for those who need it the most. This includes 60% of the formally employed population who do not earn a living wage.
“A UBIG would address the many challenges faced by the working class, such as ‘black tax’, the plight of caregivers, the barriers to empowering women in abusive relationships, addressing the frightening statistics of youth unemployment, supporting needs like transport, airtime, data, clothes, etc. required for a young person to look for work.”
The organisation said the UBIG would ensure non-nationals were not exploited as they too were contributing to the economy.
“There is no truth in xenophobic rhetoric claiming that they are taking South Africans’ jobs.”
The current R350 SRD equates to roughly R11 a day. The UBIG would provide recipients with the equivalent of R50 a day.
“Even this is still insufficient because it is only one meal a day. The state might think this is expensive, but this is expected to feed a family, not just one person.
“We must do away with myths and nonsense that a UBIG is not affordable. The UBIG is affordable and it is necessary, which has been shown over and over by experts and economists. A UBIG is affordable, it is feasible and, yes, the rich must be taxed. We are not apologetic about it. We need redistribution of wealth in South Africa due to economic atrocities of the past.”
The organisation said it was “scandalous” that the UBIG had not been enacted.
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“Government is clearly more scared of their cronies and capitalist overlords than they are of the people who bear the brunt of their terrible policies.”
In December, the Institute for Economic Justice released proposed models for funding the UBIG at the level of the food poverty line of R624 per month. The model includes a wealth tax.
It said the gross cost would be R255 billion a year, assuming that all those who qualified for the grant took it.
The UBIG was supported at an ANC policy conference in July last year. The grant was supported in the report with the ANC saying it “supports the introduction of the universal basic income grant to meet basic needs and reduce unsustainable wealth and income inequality. Universalism is a vital principle that supports the dignity of all. Grants can be clawed from the wealthier by using the tax system.”
According to the report, the government should continue to pay the SRD until the introduction of the basic income grant and should be linked to the food poverty line.