ANC government does not care about the poor and grant recipients

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) funds 27.3-million beneficiaries, 18.8-million of whom are recipients of social grants
The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) funds 27.3-million beneficiaries, 18.8-million of whom are recipients of social grants
Image: SA government via Twitter

It was sad, deflating, heart-wrenching, infuriating, and even slightly funny (not funny ha-ha, but funny tragic) to hear President Cyril Ramaphosa say last week that social grants and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would be scrapped if the ANC loses power this year.

Of course, he is lying through his teeth.

If the EFF, for example, came to power it would most probably increase social grants (while breaking everything else). If the DA were to win it would be in bed with so many parties that genuinely want to keep social grants it wouldn’t touch them either — not in its first term, anyway. Ditto most of the 300-plus political parties and independent candidates that South Africans will be choosing from on election day.

No, what was tragic about the president’s utterances is that Ramaphosa has consistently showed that he does not care about social grant or NSFAS recipients even when they are suffering.

If he cared, he would have known that on that very Monday that he made his claim, more than 150,000 child and old age grant beneficiaries had not been paid.

In a month when many in our country do not have money due to festive season commitments, the government saw fit to deprive the poorest of its poor of their grants.

Old women, men, and children are going hungry as you read this because of government incompetence. Not a single word from the president about this.

It's not the first time. In September last year thousands of broke pensioners were forced to sleep outside grant sites or walk for kilometres every day to queue at ATMs, SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices and Post Office branches in the hope that they would be paid.

Every day, they were disappointed. It was the fourth time that social grants were not paid since Sassa took over grant distribution from the Post Office in October 2022.

Who was held responsible for this mess? Did any heads roll? In the middle of this crisis social development minister Lindiwe Zulu, the person ultimately responsible for this mess, chose to visit the site of the hijacked building in central Johannesburg where 77 people had died in a fire. She stood in front of cameras and boldly claimed: “Whether we like it or not, this (the fire) is the result of apartheid.”

Asking Ramaphosa to fire a minister is like asking a Karoo lamb to attack a hungry lion, so I won’t even go there. But, in any functioning state, Zulu should have been fired that week, if not before. The fact that many grant recipients did not receive their payments for six weeks in September 2023 is an outrage, but our leaders don’t care. If you look at Zulu’s Instagram page, you will only see her dolled up and pushing her bags through airports. Let them eat cake, indeed.

She won’t be fired for failing to address the fact that thousands of grant beneficiaries are stranded virtually every month now. No-one gets fired here.

The City Press newspaper has reported that she is alleged to have attempted to “engineer the appointment of a man believed to be her confidant to the position of director-general”. So outrageous was the attempt that Zulu’s own deputy minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, wrote to cabinet fuming that the process had been manipulated to favour the minister’s candidate. The trade union Nehawu, a staunch ANC ally, called for Zulu’s firing.

Ramaphosa has sat on his hands. That’s his style.

Take Blade Nzimande, our higher education minister. Every month since May last year the state’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme failed to pay tens of thousands of students their monthly stipends, leading to many of them sleeping rough and others starving. Close to 100,000 students receive their November allowances late. Many of them have still not received the November stipends today. Despite all this, Nzimande is still drawing a salary and enjoying the luxuries of his office.

One does not even have to mention Nzimande’s current scandal, in which the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse alleges that service providers contracted by NSFAS paid millions of rand in kickbacks to him and NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa. Nzimande should have been fired when poor students did not have money to get to universities to write exams last October and November.

One last example: By far our biggest problem in SA is unemployment. It has ballooned spectacularly over the past six years and is at crisis levels. In his cabinet, Ramaphosa retains the former trade unionist and communist leader, Thulas Nxesi, as the minister of labour and employment. The man is an utter failure. The ANC Youth League president, Collen Malatji, was moved to say last year: “That Thulas Nxesi, who is the minister of employment, appears like he is minister of unemployment. I don’t know when we are removing him, but it’s an urgent matter.”

Don’t be fooled. This government does not care about the poor and grant recipients. If it did, then Zulu, Nzimande and Nxesi would not be in office.


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