South African Government

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Minister Lindiwe Zulu: Basic Income Support Webinar

13 Dec 2021

Remarks by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, MP on the occasion of the Basic Income Support Webinar

President of COSATU and my dear sister, Comrade Zingiswa Losi;
Director of the International Labour Organization in Pretoria, Dr Joni Musabayana
Acting Director-General of the Department of Social Development, Mr Linton Mchunu;
Chief Executive Officer of SASSA; Ms Totsie Memela-Khambula;
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the NDA; Mr Bongani Magongo;
Faculty members and researchers from partner institutions of higher education;
Representatives of our local partner think-tanks, civil society organisations, non-profit
organisations and multilateral institutions;
Senior management and programme personnel of different government departments and entities;
Valued presenters and discussants;
Fellow South Africans;
Young people; and
Programme Director, Ms Nozipho Tshabalala.

1. A very good South African morning to you all. Right at the outset, please allow me to convey my get well-wishes to Professor Vivienne Taylor whom we had hoped would join us this morning. She is not with us this morning due to ill-health. Professor Taylor played a tremendous role in the pursuit of the realisation of a progressive social security framework in South Africa. The significance of her work as a social activist, public servant and scholar is as indelible to discussions about social security as much as it is an institution.

2. The Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive System of Social Security for South Africa, commonly referred to as the Taylor Committee, is the embodiment of this point. Accordingly, today’s discussions are a reflection of continuing parts of the work that she contributed to the field of social security. I wish her health, strength and deep recovery. 

3. As we all learned yesterday that President Ramaphosa tested positive for CoVID19 and is receiving the relevant treatment, we pray for him and all South Africans that they have a speedy recovery.

4. It is indeed my honour and privilege to welcome everyone to this important webinar wherein we are announcing the launch of the Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support. This webinar forms part of a series of a diversity of engagements and outputs through which we are encouraging rigorous examinations and solution cocreation of matters that are relevant to South Africa’s social assistance programme.

5. You will recall that nearly seven weeks following the confirmation of South Africa’s first case of a person who tested CoVID-2019 positive President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the “extraordinary coronavirus budget” of R500 billion that was aimed at cushioning some of the socio-economic hardships that accompany the CoVID19 pandemic. Representing 10% of our gross domestic product, these investments were directed towards, inter alia, the provision of medical testing supplies and food and addressing the loss of economic productivity and earnings. Within that, the Department was tasked with implementing the Special CoVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for unemployed beneficiaries. To this end, during its first iteration, the Special CoVID-19 SRD grant benefited the households of more than 6 million beneficiaries from the allocated R55 billion.

6. In the remaining months of the 2021/22 financial year the Department of Social Development will be co-ordinating and delivering a few more webinars that are targeted at promoting a healthy discourse with a particular emphasis on projecting the voice of beneficiaries and communities who experience our work.

7. For instance, in October this year, together with the World Bank we launched the Social Assistance Programs and Systems Review: South Africa report that reviewed South Africa’s social assistance programme. In many respects, the findings of this report are very encouraging. For instance, the report vindicates the initiatives that the Department introduced in response to the CoVID-19 shocks in so far as we innovatively expanded access to social assistance through the use of digital technologies and we reinforced whole-of-society collaborations.

8. The World Bank report was followed by the launch of the Department’s own report on the implementation of the Special CoVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant. This report provided important data about the attributes of the grant recipients, their felt needs and their experiences when they interact with our service points, particularly the grant application and payment systems.

9. These two reports do not only confirm that our social transfers are developmental in nature, but, most importantly, they challenge the State to enhance its programme design and strengthen implementation towards meaningful humanlevel outcomes and societal impact. 

10. The Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support that we are launching today forms an important element of our ongoing efforts to institutionalise basic income support. Owing to the inter-disciplinary investments by all our partners in academia, civil society and multilateral institutions, the Expert Panel Report provides persuasive guidelines with which we must respond to the questions of the appropriateness and feasibility of extending basic income support to our citizens who are between the ages of 18 and 59.

11. This report reinforces the need to invoke both courage and science that we all need in sustaining an intelligent dialogue on Basic Income Support. You will recall that when delivering this year’s Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture, President Cyril Ramaphosa challenged us to be brave when speaking about these matters. Sooner than later dialogues must come to an end and piloting and implementation must start to define the reason we started this conversation just over twenty years ago.

12. Coming slightly a month after the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, this report (as well as today’s deliberations) have the opportunity to present tangible strategies and approaches that will — in a manner that protects dignity — establish comprehensive and sustainable social security systems that are responsive to the needs of our people, particularly the vulnerable among them. Put differently, in light of the fiscal constraints, this is the best opportunity for the report to demonstrate how legitimate basic income support can be innovated to protect those who need it, namely those between the ages of 18 and 59.

13. It is in this context that our efforts must be targeted at improving the state of the people where they live. The state of the people speaks to whether each and every one of us is able to live, adapt, be resilient, shape our environment, prosper and grow as members of the South African society. When sufficiently improved, the state of the people will be self-evident in the improvement of the multiple dimensions of each person’s life, inclusive of the physical, material, nutritional, psychological, emotional, spiritual, belonging, participation, health, intellectual, sustainability, security, environmental, vocational and economic dimensions.

14. Owing to the so-called civilizing effect of colonialism-apartheid, our society remains stubbornly patriarchal with high levels of poverty, inequalities, unemployment and trust deficit. Consequently, central to our efforts to revolutionise our social assistance landscape should be un-apologetic challenges to the assumptions that sustain this regressive orthodoxy whose only logic is the reproduction of patriarchy, poverty, inequalities, unemployment and alienation.

15. We believe that the expansion of the social assistance framework is the key to common and inclusive economic participation, the reduction of inequalities and the real instrument of lifting a large number of South Africans out of poverty.

6. Implemented side-by-side with employment creation and entrepreneurship support initiatives, the expanded social assistance framework can positively impact an individual’s life as much as it can support households towards the levels of resilience with which they can protect themselves against the invasive and undesirable social ills.

17. Consequently, our people’s standard of living will improve and our economic growth will be inclusive. As part of a solid plan to address the structural economic problems, a deep social assistance framework should help generate a common prosperity for all South Africans. 

18. As I conclude, I am pleased to receive the Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support today. This report is now an integral part of our policy engagement arsenal. Pursuant of our people-public-private-civic-academic-multilateral partnership,

18.1 I thank all South Africans for always investing your time and interest in this and related public engagements;

18.2 I express my appreciation to our civic society and non-profit sector for your continued advocacy and public education work;

18.3 I want to thank each and every one of the faculty members and researchers who contributed to the diligent authoring of this report. Your personal investment to this subject matter is acknowledged;

18.4 My gratitude goes to each and every presenter and discussant for taking time out of your busy schedule to prepare and meaningfully participate in this webinar.

18.5 I also wish to recognise the ongoing partnership that we are having with the ILO for your continued support of our government’s decent work agenda.

19. I wish you well for the remainder of this webinar, and trust that you will have fruitful discussions as you delve deep into the contents of the report. I believe that this webinar will greatly contribute to the solutions that our society and government are crafting with respect to the basic income support.

20. I urge you to be more vigilant with your lives as well as those of your loved ones. Lead healthy lifestyles; wash your hands with soap and water; sanitise; wear your mask; maintain safe physical distance when in social settings; and vaccinate. Be safe. Live!

Thank you.