Instead of focusing on interventions for the rich, government’s focus should be on directing cash to poor and hard-working families that will bear the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis, writes Mmusi Maimane.
Confirmation that the Covid-19 virus is now spreading within South Africa should be cause for concern for every citizen.
Yesterday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the total confirmed cases within SA is now up to 116 – a 36% increase overnight.
While there exists a natural human inclination to panic, now is the time for all citizens to respond in a rational manner so as to not incite further fear and anxiety.
President Ramaphosa has outlined a comprehensive response plan in order to tackle the virus and its effects, and we welcome this.
All One South Africa Movement activists will play their part in heeding the guidance given by the President in order to defeat this virus.
If we place the collective well-being of our nation first and act together, we will “flatten the curve” and defeat Covid-19.
Nevertheless, we must face the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak has shone a fresh light on the stark divides in South African society.
We cannot escape the reality of “Two South Africa’s” – one for the included and another for the excluded.
Those on the inside have the means to stockpile their fridges and cupboards with food and supplies, work remotely and thus avoid public transport, and access world class private healthcare.
The excluded however, live on the precipice of poverty.
Almost half of South African citizens will be the first victims of any food shortages, with 80% of the country on an income of less than R4 000 per month.
They are left with no option but to continue using congested public transport and being exposed to the Covid-19 virus.
Moreover, if contracted, will be subject to under-resourced and overcrowded, sub-standard public healthcare.
While we cannot fix this unfair disparity gulf overnight, we can intervene immediately.
For this reason, I have proposed to President Ramaphosa the immediate introduction of an “Emergency Cash Injection” to low income families that will span from 1 April 2020 to 1 July 2020.
For the purposes of speed and efficacy we should use the current grant instruments already in place in order for roll out to start 1 April 2020.
Using existing systems – such as child and old age grant recipients – will ensure money gets to families as soon as practically possible.
Moreover, families share these monies and it will provide some of the urgent cash flow relief that is required during this crisis.
The injection includes:
- Increasing the child grant to R650. This amount is based on the average cost to feed a child a proper nutritious diet in March 2020, complied by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group; and
- Increase the old-age grant to R2 500. This is the amount pensioners have been asking National Treasury to increase the old-age grant to.
In total, this “Emergency Cash Injection” would cost R14.4 billion over the three-month period.
This sum can be found by cancelling the latest R16 billion state-sponsored bailout to South African Airways (SAA) and redirecting it to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
Instead of focusing on interventions for the rich, government’s focus should be on directing cash to poor and hard-working families that will bear the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis.
As an additional long-term intervention, we propose the introduction of “MyShare” – a targeted unconditional cash transfer provided on a monthly basis to young black South Africans.
I will launch this policy on Human Rights Day, on Saturday 21 March 2020, unpacking criteria, implementation and cost.
To mitigate the Covid-19 crisis, we must trust one another and recognise that individuals will have different needs and priorities as they deal with the impact of this crisis.
Now is the time for South Africans to unite, look after the poor and vulnerable, and play our part in defeating Covid-19 and getting our country back on track.