Minister Lindiwe Zulu: Launch of The Rapid Assessment of the Implementation and Utilisation of the Special Coronavirus Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD) Report

Minister Lindiwe Zulu: Launch of The Rapid Assessment of the Implementation and Utilisation of the Special Coronavirus Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD) Report

Keynote Address of the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, MP on the occasion of the Launch of The Rapid Assessment of the Implementation and Utilisation of the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant Report.

Chief Executive Officer of South African Social Security Agency, Ms. BJ Totsie Memela-Khambula;

Deputy Director-General for Comprehensive Social Security, Ms. Brenda Sibeko;

Executive Director of the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, Ms Isobel Frye;

Independent Consultant and Former Deputy Director-General of Social Development, Mr Selwyn Jehoma

Senior Management and Programme Staff of the Department and Entities;

Representatives of our international, multilateral and local partners; and

Fellow South Africans.

Good morning to you all, and may the good spirits of South Africa dwell in you all.

  1. As part of the Department’s observance of the series of markers of this year’s Social Development Month campaign that we are carrying out under the theme, “Delivering DSD Services During COVID-19 in the Year of Charlotte Maxeke”, it is with great pleasure that today I am presenting to you The Rapid Assessment of the Implementation and Utilisation of the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant report.
  2. This Report reinforces our call for:
  • meaningful investments in shock responses that cater for each South African, and thereby ensuring that no one is excluded from contributing to the reconstruction and recovery of our society and economy;
  • the institutionalisation of human-level outcomes and the realisation of community-level impact;
  • the freeing and promotion of the capabilities and prospects of each South African; and
  •  increasing the accessibility of Social Development services, deepening active citizenship, supporting community initiatives, and co-creating meaningful solutions where people live (together with the people).
  1. Specifically, in response to the unprecedented social and financial hardships that accompanied CoVID-19, the survival strategies and livelihood security of low and no income individuals and households were severely weakened and undermined since the introduction of the necessary national lockdown on Thursday, 26 March 2020.
  2. It is in this context that, in May 2020, our government responsively introduced the CoVID-19 Social Relief Distress (SRD) grant of R350, the first large scale innovative and cross-sectorally implemented social security measure. Noting that CoVID-19 is still a global reality, and that the well-being and dignity of all our citizens are a priority, on 25 July 2021 President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension of the CoVID-19 SRD grant until the end of March 2022. We are responding to the people’s felt needs.
  3. In light of the need for evidence-based programme implementation and policy-making, the Department has been gathering and analysing diverse data that are helping us to better and clearer understand the outcomes and impact that the CoVID-19 SRD grant is having in the lives of South Africans, households and the communities that they live in.
  4. Explicit in the findings of this report is how our government practically attended to the perennial challenges of hunger, incomeless-ness, depravation, impoverishment, and securing a decent and dignified life for all South Africans since the advent of CoVID-19.
  • While The Rapid Assessment of the Implementation and Utilisation of the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant report is being presented today, the wealth of data that we are collecting as we implement demands deeper inter-departmental and inter-agency innovations’ and implementation coordination. Likewise, limitless opportunities have arisen for current and prospective researchers to conduct policy-informative analyses on this huge repository of data that we continue to collect. Preliminarily, the dimensions of how we can further innovative the responsiveness of similar shock response are yet to be explored.
  • Key among the findings of the report is that the grant assisted to lift the populations that were adversely affected by CoVID-19, especially the 18 — 59 year old cohort who have limited access to social assistance, out of financial hardships.
  • Also noteworthy among the report’s findings is the need for improved population targeting (that is, accessibility of information to no and low income groups) through our communication channels.
  • The report recommends that qualifying criteria for citizens should be removed through the design of application, verification and payment processes. Thus, it has been established that many applicants were excluded from benefiting from the CoVID-19 SRD grant owing to the applicable means test that unwarrantedly generate false-positive results (in other words, exclusion errors). These exclusion errors have denied the very people that the programme is targeting the benefit that we designed for them.
  • Lastly, and very reasonable at that, the report is urging government to develop a single citizens’ registry for all services. In the times of big data and the capabilities of artificial intelligence, it is indispensable that social protection programmes should benefit from these technological developments.
  1. Owing to CoVID-19, and with unprecedented agility, our interventions are being challenged to continuously learn to be responsive to both the material and mental health needs of ordinary South Africans granted that the reported incidents of anxiety, fear, panic, depression, uneasiness, trust deficit and a range of related insecurities have increased among us since the advent of CoVID-19 (for instance, while the World Health Organization’s Global Health Estimates (published in June 2021) reports that 37.7 actual suicidal deaths were reported in South Africa in 2019, most indications are that this number must have increased since CoVID-19).
  2. Implied in the report are society-wide lessons for the improved design, targeting, resourcing and effective implementation of future shock responses such as, for instance, the Basic Income Grant and shock responses to the truly globalised challenge of climate change. With particular reference to the eventuality and in-evitability of the adverse impact of climate changes on ordinary South Africans who are structurally excluded already, a society-wide response and innovations are called upon to protect all of us.
  3. Particularly because we are in adjusted alert level 1, 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!
  4. Consequently, we are sharing the evidence and lessons learnt on the implementation of the CoVID-19 SRD grant. I look forward for your robust participation in the discussion to assist us to strengthen the response mechanisms.

I thank you.