South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), which is gearing up to contest elections later this year, said the extension of a monthly welfare grant is non-negotiable and the required funding must be allocated in the February budget.
The government first introduced a R350 ($19) temporary monthly stipend to cushion the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic and has since extended it several times. In November, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said funds would be made available to ensure it continues until at least the end of March 2025, but he stopped short of committing to funding a permanent income grant.
“Whether the ANC will then take a decision in terms of it becoming a basic income grant will come later,” Mmamoloko Kubayi, the party’s economic policy head, said an in an interview in the eastern city of Mbombela on Friday. “For now, the extension” of the grant is non-negotiable, because while it is relatively small, it has provided a lifeline to those living in poverty-stricken areas and has staved off malnutrition, she said.
The ANC, which is commemorating the 112th anniversary of its founding this week, has governed Africa’s most industrialised economy since white-minority rule ended in 1994. The upcoming election is poised to be the party’s toughest yet, with several opinion polls showing it risks losing its national majority.
The party won’t put undue pressure on Godongwana, but the budget has to reflect its priorities, according to Kubayi.
“We have never taken reckless decisions in election years. I don’t think we will start today,” she said. She called for an end to programs that were ineffective and failed to spend their budgetary allocations, adding that the money should instead be used for infrastructure and other initiatives that couldn’t afford cutbacks.