Namibia: Concerns Over Emergency Income Grant

(File photo).

The Ministry of Finance says it is aware of worries over the Emergency Income Grant (IEG) system which is being rolled out to Namibians whose livelihoods are affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.

This includes concerns over who qualifies for the grant, the application process, and how it will be implemented.

The lockdown is scheduled to end on Saturday, 18 April, unless the government extends it.

The grant is a once-off payment of N$750 per qualifying person on the basis of having lost income or experienced difficult circumstances during the lockdown.

The grant is expected to benefit 749 000 people, and at N$750 per person, it would cost the government N$562 million.

Finance ministry spokesperson Tonateni Shidhudhu on Sunday said over 350 000 applicants have been verified and should start receiving money today. He also urged citizens not to take advantage of the system.

"Namibians are warned to desist from every temptation to use anybody's personal identification without authorisation to avoid criminal and corruption charges," Shidhudhu said, adding that people already receiving social grants on behalf of vulnerable children and other relatives do not qualify for the EIG.

He said any applicant whose identification number is already registered for any social grant, will be declined as the EIG does not allow for double benefits.

"We are aware that such social grants might not be of their own and we encourage them to be patient and wait for an appeal opportunity that will be provided through the regional councils. The appeal modalities are being worked out and will be announced at a later stage," he said.

"The ministry further discouraged students from applying, regardless of them being recipients of NSFAF loans and grants, because they are not economically active.

Qualifying applicants are encouraged to apply for themselves. However, those who are unable to do so themselves have been advised against providing their identity particulars to people they do not trust to apply on their behalf.

"The Ministry of Finance in collaboration with MTC and MobiPay is working hard to improve the systems, and it is expected that [today] most payments will go through without huddles (sic)," Shidhudhu said.

LIVING IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

Desiree Kahenge, a 31-year-old entrepreneur selling perishable goods at Tsumeb since 2012, says she is worried.

"We fear that the income grant will not reach us . . . we fear certain promises never reach the people they are supposed to benefit," she told The Namibian.

President Hage Geingob announcing a 21-day partial lockdown to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

Although she appreciates efforts of the government, she is anxious about how to sustain her family.

"If this (partial) lockdown continues for months, then it will affect us very badly," she said, adding that the N$750 is just enough to pay her rent.

Currently, she has not operated her business since the state of emergency was announced, losing much of her income.

Talaohole Shilongo (36) a fruit vendor in Kuisebmond at Swakopmund, says she has been selling fruit door-to-door since the lockdown.

She now makes about a third of what she used to make when she was selling in front of a shop.

Shilongo has not applied for the EIG because she does not believe in the process.

"I don't know what they will do with my ID number. Maybe they will say we voted for Itula and they will block everything I will do in future. Why can't we register through our association like we have always done with everything else?" she asked.

Salomo Mwaimbange, a hairdresser, who also lost business because of lockdown, is struggling to make ends meet.

Mwaimbange, who is also from Swakopmund, has applied for the EIG three times but has received no response.

He says he gave his name to the vendors' committee in the hope that they will send his number through.

"I applied but I did not get any response. I don't believe the system can handle all our applications. The time given is also too short," said Mwaimbange.

According to the finance ministry, the emergency income grant applies to all Namibians ages 18 to 59 years who are not employed or are employed in the informal sector and lost income during the lockdown.

Employed persons and those who receive other state grants do not qualify for the EIG grant.

Anyone who has lost their job or reduction of income in the formal sector of the economy will be assisted by the Social Security Commission or other support measures.

The EIG is a self-nomination process. Therefore applicants are required to have, or make use of an active cell phone number, and a valid Namibian ID number.

Applicants must SMS their name and "EIG" to 141222 to start the registration process, or dial *141*222#.

After the approval of the application by the ministry, applicants will receive a token from the bank they have selected in the application process.

Payments of the Emergency Income Grant will commence from today, the ministry has said.

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