Social grants should not perpetuate the cycle of poverty, they should end it

Opinion by Bill Harington

Mmusi Maimane (leader of the DA) made a somewhat horrific announcement in April 2018, that he will up the Child Support Grant amount to R800 per child.  IF the DA becomes the governance / ruling party after the 2019 elections. Currently, the social grant per child is R400.

This is a very dangerous and somewhat foolish election promise, from a party which has achieved nothing thus far in the municipalities they currently run.

The DA will say and do whatever it takes to gain back some lost voters since they had internal rallies and mud throwing within their own ranks, and especially after the ANC leaned towards the EFF on the possible, yet undeniable land grab proposal.

I doubt if Mmusi and his cronies thought this ridiculous election promise through at all, and do they realize what impact this will have on the already suffering taxpayers?

Such a grant will only increase the unemployment rate on the flip side of the coin, not to mention that it will fast track further population growth rates to unexpected highs. Having more kids will simply mean; receiving more money.

To bring this into perspective, the government will pay out a social grant to a qualifying parent as follows: 

Having One child: R172 800.00 
Having Two children: R345 600.00 
Having Three children: R518 400.00
(Based over an 18 year period). 

Hence, Sassa restricted the payout per qualifying parents or household to 6 children.
As per Sassa stats, Child support grants are paid out to 12.8 million people per month.

Yes, it’s a fact that one can barely buy the necessity for a child with only an R400 grant per month, but this will grant people to have more kids – without taking responsibility for their actions.

Total expenditure on all grants in the 2017/18 financial year amounted to more than R150 billion.

The grant system was expanded during a period of rapid economic growth. In 2002 South Africa only had some 4,2 million beneficiaries of social grants.

This grew rapidly to about 17 million beneficiaries as the grants were expanded to include older children.

Because South Africa was going through a period of rapid economic growth at that time it could easily afford new spending initiatives and projects.

But since 2008 the country has suffered a period of low economic growth. And there isn’t any expectation that the situation is likely to improve in the foreseeable future. As a result, the system has already become unaffordable for the ANC government and therefore it’s highly unlikely that even the DA could increase the Child Support Grant to R800 pm / per child.

This is simply unaffordable and will push South Africa closer to a fiscal cliff – the point at which its spending outstrips its revenues and it can’t meet its debt obligations.


Social grants is merely a method to redistribute wealth to poor households and yes, it surely has contributed to a reduction in poverty in South Africa – but also caused an enormous growth on debt to other departments and the will to earn a living.

The promise should rather be that controlled and monitored investments will be made to support the national school nutrition program, which provides meals at schools for millions of children who otherwise would die of hunger.

I believe that we are moving away from this vision as we appear to view social grants as a way of life as opposed to seeing a grant as one way to an even better life. Social grants should not perpetuate the cycle of poverty, they should end it.

I often compare social grants to the government’s Extended Public Works Programmes. These programmes provide jobs and help people put food on the table but let’s not kid ourselves: this is a mild relief to a long term illness. Sure, such programmes can lead to a better-skilled labour force in the same way that social grants can help provide basic needs for children. But what happens when these programmes end? What happens when a person is no longer a minor and therefore doesn’t qualify for a grant? The patient will die.

It is abnormal for citizens to be dependent on the state for life because it should be the citizens who are driving their own country’s progress. At 27.7%, our country has record levels of unemployment and millions of households literally depend on old age pensions and child care grants to meet their daily needs. Stats SA has also revealed that we have 5 million unemployed young people and of these 3.7 million are looking for work. In a slow-growing economy like ours, with the latest World Bank projection at 0.6%, it is difficult to be optimistic. Inaction, however, is also not an option.

I think it is clear that while social grants do provide much-needed relief for those in need, relying on these indefinitely is unsustainable. As young people, this current tunnel vision of social grants as the mother of all solutions to addressing poverty hurts us more than it does anyone else. We must not be satisfied with the status quo but we must put our leaders on notice that we deserve and demand better. We must also be ready to put in the hard work of saving ourselves instead of believing there is a magic money tree that will sustain us forever

Bill Harington