Five million have received Covid-19 grant, but opposition calls for Lindiwe Zulu's head

Lindiwe Zulu’s department was criticised for failing to deliver on the promise made by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the beginning of the lockdown.
Lindiwe Zulu’s department was criticised for failing to deliver on the promise made by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the beginning of the lockdown.

Opposition parties have called on social development minister Lindiwe Zulu to apologise and resign over her department's response to Covid-19.

But she was defiant in response. “I'm going nowhere,” she said.

“When the DA says I must resign, they must resign themselves before telling me to resign. I'm going nowhere, DA.”

She was responding to a call from DA MP Bridget Masango for her resignation over her department's “disappointing” handling of the Covid-19 response.

Zulu delivered a statement to the National Assembly on Thursday about the socio-economic interventions to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. She commended her department for rising to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This tested our systems as much as it stretched them. The department and its entities are continuously extending themselves and reaching out to the sectors that we are serving, potential partners and communities,” she said.

She said her statement demonstrated the extraordinary measures that the government had intentionally planned and was implementing to protect all South Africans against the unprecedented socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

Zulu said the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) had to date received 7.8 million Covid-19 social relief of distress grant applications. The special grant payments have been made into the accounts of 5 million of these applicants.

This number, Zulu said represented those that were found to be eligible and whose information has been verified by various databases.

“Let me hasten to add that the information of all the applicants who were previously disqualified by the various validations databases we work with is continuously being rerun in these databases,” she said.

“Therefore, all the applicants that were previously disqualified due to database errors are being reconsidered. As we do this, the number of applicants who are eligible for the special Covid-19 SRD [social relief of distress] grant is increasing.”

Zulu said in this regard, payments for the months of June and July — a combined R700, based on two monthly payments of R350 — and about 1 million applicants in this category of applicants are receiving their payments.

She said they have developed a dedicated appeals mechanism where aggrieved applicants could raise dissatisfactions with their application outcomes.

'Completely out of touch with reality'

The DA's Masango called on the minister to resign, saying her department's handling of the crisis has been disappointing.

“In the absence of a clear plan of action and given the minister and her department’s recent abysmal track record, the DA would put it to the minister that she should offer an unconditional apology to the millions of South Africans who have been victims of her lack of leadership, her being removed from the lived reality of the people she has the privilege of serving,” she said.

“After the apology, the honourable minister must do the honourable thing and vacate her position as the minister of social development.”

She said she had hoped that Zulu would ensure all the challenges with the payment of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant of R350 were sorted out without court intervention.

“Having listened to the minister, I am sadly disappointed, yet again. I am disappointed because South Africans have been understanding and patient in the face of ferocious hunger and starvation,” said Masango.

“I am disappointed because at every meeting the portfolio committee expressed itself clearly and categorically to the minister and her department that they should ensure the system works better and that millions of people actually receive that money to buy food.”

She said she was disappointed because when the announcement of the special grant was made on April 21, millions of people had high hopes that they would at least get R350.

“For many of them, those hopes have yet to be fulfilled over three months later.”

She said she has been receiving complaints and queries every day from desperate people who have not been paid their grant due to post offices telling them there is not sufficient money to pay them.

Poverty in this country has a race - and it has a gender.
Delisile Ngwenya

EFF MP Delisile Ngwenya called for a “reboot” of thinking about poverty and development in SA.

“The coronavirus deepened an already precarious socio-economic situation in this country, where almost a quarter of the population went to bed hungry even before the virus struck,” she said.

“This situation is more pronounced on households headed by African females, and get worse where there are no adults in the home. Poverty in this country has a race — and it has a gender.

“Aware of this terrible situation, in our 2019 manifesto we asked that social grants must be doubled across the board. This was to enable the most vulnerable groups of people, the elderly, the disabled, the orphaned, children and war veterans, to be able to live a life of dignity, without hunger.

“It is for this reason that we welcomed the intervention by the president at the beginning of the lockdown, which introduced an unemployment grant of R350, and increased social grants across the board for a period of six months, at least until October.

“But we all know that the situation will not have improved a bit by October, and that in actual fact more and more people would have sunk deeper into poverty by then.”

The IFP's Liezl van der Merwe called on Zulu to apologise for “significant government failures”, which she said left poor South Africans on the brink of the abyss, with nowhere to turn.

We needed compassion and empathy for their plight, not a statement completely out of touch with reality,” she said.

Van der Merwe said while ordinary South Africans united behind President Cyril Ramaphosa when he announced the lockdown, some morally bankrupt cadres of the ruling party, however, readied themselves to loot resources meant poor.

The Covid-19 pandemic has sadly revealed that our permanent pandemic is that of corruption. It has shown us that when the ANC tells us about a better life for all, what they mean is a better life for their cadres — cadres before country, cadres before lives and livelihoods,” she said.

President Ramaphosa’s 'new dawn' has sadly been laid bare as nothing more than a long, dark night of theft and corruption.”

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