Government Covid-19 relief efforts have failed the poor

The government’s response to COVID-19 has laid bare a number of truths that existed prior to the start of the pandemic: high levels of inequality and high levels of unemployment (currently at 30% and projected to increase to 50%). One in six people work in the informal sector; these jobs are often precarious, fleeting and poorly paid. When lockdown commenced, the government announced various relief measures, which seemed like an impressive thumbs up to the plight of the poor. Yet 100+ days into lockdown, we are forced to reckon with whether government relief measures were for those who really needed them the most.

The government’s response to COVID-19 has laid bare a number of truths that existed prior to the start of the pandemic: high levels of inequality and high levels of unemployment (currently at 30%   and projected to increase to 50%). One in six people work in the informal sector; these jobs are often precarious, fleeting and poorly paid. When lockdown commenced, the government announced various relief measures, which seemed like an impressive thumbs up to the plight of the poor. Yet 100+ days into lockdown, we are forced to reckon with whether government relief measures were for those who really needed them the most.

We ran a partially successful campaign asking the government to increase the child support grant (CSG) by R500 for 6 months per child to  give  caregivers monetary support during the pandemic to meet the needs of children. The department of social services reneged on President Ramaphosa’s announcement of increasing the CSG per child beneficiary and instead declared the CSG increase per caregiver – so. whether there are one or five children in a household, the CSG increase is R500.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (UIF Covid-19 Ters fund) lies in ruin , leaving many vulnerable to the harsh economic realities of having no income. Healthcare facilities are also overwhelmed , with shortages of personal protective equipment (among other woes), making healthcare workers fear for their safety, resulting in disastrous ripple effects for workers, and patients. These are just a few examples of how money has not reached those it should have been meant  to reach  OR of how money has not reached those most vulnerable.  This has resulted in the poor pit against each other, while the real culprit, the government, remains unaccountable. 

We cannot let this continue to be the story of South Africa. We need to come together to show the government that we have the collective power to demand that it acts in the best interest of ordinary people. We need to demand transparency and disclosure on various COVID-19 relief measures and defend money meant to ease the plight of the poor.

We are committed to campaigns that will show our commitment to holding the government accountable, as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be demanding the rights and safety of essential workers, because if they are protected, all of us are safer.  We are strongest and most successful when we stand united and in solidarity with one another. Let’s not fall into the government’s trap of dividing and conquering us. Amandla, awethu.