Ramaphosa promises to 'improve' R350 social relief of distress grant

The president gave no details about how the grant would be improved, or for how long it would be extended

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his 2024 state of the nation address in Cape Town on Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his 2024 state of the nation address in Cape Town on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to “improve” and extend the payment of the R350 social relief of distress grant (SDR) to more than 9-million unemployed South Africans.

Ramaphosa did not give any details about how the grant would be improved or for how long it will be extended. 

The promise might be seen as a campaign ploy as Ramaphosa is seeking re-election as president for a second term.

Ramaphosa was delivering his state of the nation address at the Cape Town city hall on Thursday night. He also indicated he would sign the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law soon.

“The bill has arrived on my desk. I'm going through the bill. I'm looking for a pen,” he quipped.

The NHI Bill was recently passed by parliament. 

“We plan to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies and health information systems,” said Ramaphosa.

The SDR grant, implemented as a temporary measure for people in financial distress during the Covid-19 pandemic, reaches about nine million people, according to Ramaphosa. 

“In the midst of the pandemic, we introduced the special SRD grant, which currently reaches some nine million unemployed people every month. We have seen the benefits of this grant and will extend it and improve it as the next step towards income support for the unemployed,” he said. 

Ramaphosa said during his administration the government has focused on equipping law enforcement agencies to do their work effectively.

“We have strengthened the ranks of the police through the recruitment of 20,000 police officers over the past two years and another 10,000 in the year to come. An extra 5,000 police officers have been deployed to public order policing.

“The SAPS has launched Operation Shanela as a new approach to target crime hotspots, which resulted in over 285,000 arrests since May last year,” he added.

Ramaphosa used the last state of the nation of the sixth administration to reflect on the past 30 years of ANC governance. 

Among the achievements in respect of social security he highlighted “policies and programmes that have, over the course of 30 years, lifted millions of people out of dire poverty”.

These included significant funding for poor and working-class students at universities and TVET colleges over the past five years and improvements in basic education outcomes, housing, electricity and water provision. 

“At the end of apartheid, only six out of 10 people had access to clean drinking water. Today, that figure has increased to nearly nine out of 10 South Africans,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the social security net had also increased the life expectancy from 54 years in 2003 to 65 years in 2023.



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