Forethought: Securing the Future of Social Grants: IFP’s Vision for Sustainable Economic Growth and Empowerment in South Africa

Jan 10, 2024 | Press Releases

Fellow South Africans,

A question has been raised this week over whether the system of social grants and NSFAS will continue beyond the 2024 elections, if the electorate boots out a failing government. In a rather desperate attempt at scaremongering, the ruling Party’s president claimed that it will not; that social assistance will be scrapped if anyone other than the ANC comes to power. That is blatantly untrue.

Ironically, this claim was made during a cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the 112th anniversary of the ANC. I wonder whether everyone got a slice of that cake, and whether all the slices were equal. It reminded me of what the IFP’s Founder, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, always said, that no matter how we cut the cake, there is not going to be enough for everyone unless we make the cake bigger.

He was referring, of course, to the economy. The IFP’s priority from day one was to grow the economy to support the visionary plans and programmes of a democratic government.

Tragically, South Africa’s economy has stagnated under the ANC and billions are being lost to disinvestment as their disastrous mismanagement of State-owned enterprises and burgeoning corruption scare off investors.

Over the past 8 years, the JSE has reported a loss of R990 billion as foreign investors get rid of their stocks in the South African market. Last year alone we lost R155 billion.
That is cause for major concern, particularly because year after year the President tells us during the State of the Nation Address that Government will fund its programmes by increasing foreign investment. 

They are relying on a diminishing pool of resources to fund an increasing pool of need. The maths just doesn’t compute.

This has been the IFP’s concern about the vast safety net of social grants that exists in South Africa – not that it should be withdrawn, but that it will inevitably collapse if it continues under the present misguided formula applied by Government. 

The problem with the ruling Party is that it sees a noble idea, has no clue how to achieve it, yet forges ahead with promises and poor policy that can only undermine the idea in the long run.

They have done the same with the NHI. Universal access to healthcare is a noble idea and it must be pursued and secured in South Africa. But how we achieve it matters, because if we forge ahead with an unworkable plan, the entire healthcare system will ultimately collapse. 

For a Party as old as the ANC, long-term vision is seriously lacking. It is almost as though they don’t expect to be in power “until Jesus returns”, as former President Zuma declared. They are happy to set the next generation up for failure, and let them deal with the fallout, while this generation is lauded as heroes.

Social grants have always been a necessary lifeline to millions of South Africans. They are intended to assist those living in poverty, to survive. But since the first social grant was issued, the number of impoverished families has grown year upon year, so that thirty years into democracy close to half the population of our country is dependent on social grants. 

And that thirty-year trend of growing need is not going to change unless the economic policies of Government change – which will only happen if the Government itself changes.

How then do we fix the dilemma? 

The first step is to vote the IFP into government. The IFP is the champion of the poor and our policies have always prioritised the needs of those who are struggling. It was in fact Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, not the ANC, who issued the first social grant in South Africa. 

Long before democracy, the Government of KwaZulu under Prince Buthelezi’s leadership recognised the need for social assistance and implemented the system of social grants. But our system worked. Because instead of creating an increasing pool of need, our policies focussed on self-help and self-reliance. 

In every government programme, we prioritised empowerment, equipping families to stand on their own two feet again and to begin shaping their own future. The idea behind social grants is not perpetual dependence. That is a recipe for disaster, not only for those depending on social grants, but for the government issuing them. The idea is to be a bridging measure, ensuring that families survive in the toughest of times, while linking it to empowerment programmes, ensuring that families can return to self-reliance. 

Thus, in communities where we govern, the IFP priorities skills development and training, with bursaries for learners and students to assist them in furthering their education. Opportunities must be opened for grant recipients to participate in a competitive and growing economy. 

Social grants are necessary. They must continue. Thus we need to ensure that the system is not vulnerable to collapse or corruption, and that those who receive a social grants can actually survive on the amount of assistance being provided. 

If social grants genuinely became a bridging measure, the amount provided could be increased so that those who need them can access them, for as long as they are needed, and can use them – not just to survive – but to emerge from crisis. 

We cannot rely on foreign investment to fund our social grant system. We need to create the conditions for local businesses and industries to flourish, so that the economy can grow. 

We need to root out corruption in both SASSA and NSFAS, plugging up the holes through which millions of Rands are pouring away from struggling families. 

And we need to link the system of social assistance with a system of social empowerment, to ensure that perpetual dependence is never the lot of any South African.

Sincerely,

Velenkosini Hlabisa MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

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