Pathways Towards the Basic Income Grant – Media Statement

Media Statement


17 March 2021, Pretoria: The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, participated in a National Assembly debate on the Basic Income Grant on 12 March 2021. The Minister was encouraged by the sentiments expressed by all political parties in favor of the implementation of a Basic Income Grant (BIG).

The discourse on this grant has been ignited by the significant increase in poverty and unemployment induced by the worst economic downturn we have experienced since the dawn of democracy, COVID-19. It would be recalled that President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the R500 billion social and economic relief package in March 2020 to cushion our economy and the most vulnerable in society against the impact of COVID-19.

At least R17 billion of this was allocated towards the provision of a R350 Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant targeted at unemployed adults aged between 18 and 59. Since we began payment in May 2020, the grant has reached an average of 6 million adults per month, who would otherwise have had no other means of survival.

Given that these were all new applicants who did not have access to a grant before, this is a major achievement which has demonstrated our capability to implement income support on a larger scale.

The Department has received widespread support for the BIG policy during the consultations with various stakeholders from academia, civil society and organised labour since we began consultations in 2020. The determination of the appropriate path is a mammoth task that requires us to combine the lessons we have learned at home with international best practices to come up with creative ways to chart a pathway for our own country.

Our approach needs to ensure that we link the income support to developmental opportunities that enable our people to access skills training, work opportunities and other developmental initiatives to put them on a sustainable path out of poverty.

The BIG is part of a broader agenda to ensure universal coverage of all citizens in a comprehensive and coherent social security system. We hope to finalise our proposals, including financing options and implementation pathways in the coming financial year, following which we will seek Cabinet and approval of the necessary Legislative processes.

Our ongoing consultation processes seek consensus on a social compact with the Sector, Government, organised Labour, Community and Business constituencies for the implementation of a sound BIG policy that all South Africans can rally behind.

Media enquiries may be forwarded to Ms Lumka Oliphant on 083 484 8067 or

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