21 February 2019

South Africa: Distress or Destitution - Why South Africa's Social Grants Ignore the Masses of Unemployed

opinion

It is remarkable that South Africa's social security laws are still based on the pre-1994 Social Assistance Act, with tweaks. These laws were aimed at the well-being of white South Africans in the context of virtual full employment for white men. They do not accommodate the lifelong income poverty of millions marginalised from decent work.

The catch is that destitution or poverty, while it may be distressing, is not distress, as defined in the act. If you are poor, you are not distressed, but destitute. And for that state of being, there is no income support.

Many might have forgotten the tireless dedication with which many hundreds of laws on the apartheid statute books were interrogated and rewritten in line with our Constitution after 1994. New institutions of democracy were introduced, others were given a make-over, with varying degrees of success.

We approach the sixth administration of our young country assured that the inequities of influx control, Group Areas, and the Immorality Act will never be known by our children. Nor will the detentions, bannings and killings that were used to try to destroy opposition to the apartheid plan of racial extractive capitalism -- and yet, tragically, the social security...

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