The DA proposed five amendments to the Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B35-2018] to support senior citizens, improve road maintenance and improve rail transport.
The political party specifically proposed an increase in the appropriation of Department of Social Development [Vote No. 17] of R1.2 billion to provide the 3.5 million beneficiaries of the old age grant with a R355 end-of-year “top up”.
The proposed R355 end-of-year “top-up” to the old age grant could have been funded by a decrease in the appropriation for the Department of Public Enterprises [Vote No. 9] of R1.2 billion, which was earmarked for the bailout South African Express Airways.
However, members of the governing party rejected the proposal after nearly three hours of deliberations at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Appropriations last week in Parliament.
Which proves that when it came to a choice between helping pensioners, who are struggling to make ends meet or bailing out South African Express Airways, the ANC and EFF chose to bail out South African Express Airways.
Furthermore, president Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed the National Minimum Wage Bill to uplift the country’s working poor who earn below R20 an hour. Still, there is no increase in the pensioners old age grant.
The National Minimum Wage Bill, which is expected to benefit about 6-million workers that currently earn below R3,700 a month when it comes into effect on January 1 2019. With the national elections just months away, Ramaphosa is expected to use its enactment to demonstrate the ANC’s commitment to uplifting the country’s working poor who earn below R20 an hour.
Recent increases to social grants were well below food inflation, and this has diminished the buying power of the most vulnerable in our society, making it harder for them to put food on the table. Pensioners living on SASSA grants receives a mere R1700 pm in South-Africa.
The DA said it has tried to amend the budget to increase provision for social grants. “The fact that the ANC voted it down proved that they don’t have the poor’s best interest at heart,” Masango said.
Food prices in the country have been adversely affected by the weakening economy and weakened rand, rise in fuel prices – on top of uncontrollable conditions such as the drought in the country which continues to affect farmers.
Already in 2016, the average food basket price has increased by 10%, according to Stats SA, with items such as fruit and vegetables rising 18% in the past 12 months.
Meat prices – especially beef products – have also ballooned, as farmers feel the continued effects of the drought.
Add to the mix accusation of price fixing in certain staple products such as bread, and all things point to massive price pain for consumers.
Social rights group Black Sash believes the increase in the budget for social grants is meager and will not cover the rise in the cost of living.
Black Sash national advocacy manager, Elroy Paulus said the increment in grants is not commensurate with inflation.
Paulus said government needs to take into consideration the inflation that has occurred as a result of the drought.
The lack of an appropriate increase, Paulus explains, “prevents people’s purchasing ability for their basic needs – preventing the poorest in South Africa from making ends meet.”
The increase of social grants should be proportionate to annual inflation and should, therefore, mirror the constitutional right of citizens to have their socio-economic rights progressively realized.
VAT, Paulus asserted, has in the past disproportionately affected individuals.
Wealthy people spend a smaller amount of their income on basic goods, as compared to the poor, who spend their entire income on; food, clothing, shelter, and transportation.
But still, when the South-African government came to a choice between helping pensioners, who are struggling to make ends meet or bailing out South African Express Airways, the ANC and EFF chose to bail out the South African Express Airways. What about old age pension Mr President, can’t you increase that as well?
Sources: Groundup ; Business SA, Business Tech, Press Releases from DA.