The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Mr Mondli Gungubele, has urged the Department of Social Development to enhance its monitoring and evaluation systems to make sure that the multi-billion rand social relief programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa was not undermined by elements of corruption and fraud.

Mr Gungubele was speaking in a joint virtual meeting of his committee and the Select Committee on Health and Social Services, with the Department of Social Development. The meeting was organised to discuss the work of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and other programmes under the administration of the department which include food security, support for victims of gender-based violence and homeless people. 

“My fear is that corruption will undermine the social relief interventions, our biggest challenge is to protect the integrity of this noble idea, we need to enhance our monitoring and evaluation system to suffocate any condition for corruption and fraud,” Mr Gungubele said.

This week the President announced a R500 billion stimulus package for economic and social relief in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with an amount of R50 billion directed towards relieving the plight of those who are mostly affected by coronavirus.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday night, President Ramaphosa said poverty and food security have deepened dramatically in the course of just a few weeks since the introduction of the lockdown, and to reach the most vulnerable families in the country, the government will introduce a temporary six-month coronavirus grant.

He also announced that child support grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May, and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month, while all other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 per month for the next six months.

“In addition, a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant of R350 a month for the next six months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed, and who do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) payment.

“The Department of Social Development will issue the requirements needed to access and apply for this funding,” President Ramaphosa said.

Sassa will use a technology based solution to roll out food assistance through vouchers and cash transfers, to ensure that help reaches those who need it faster and more efficiently.

The President was also concerned about reports of unscrupulous people abusing the distribution of food and other assistance for corrupt ends, and warned that those involved in such activities will face the full might of the law.

The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, told the committees that one of the top priority issues would be the criteria to determine who qualifies for the R350 coronavirus grant.

“We are aware that we are going to be under tremendous pressure because people are hungry out there, but we need to understand that these are extraordinary times that need extraordinary action,” said the Minister.

The department has been providing temporary shelter and food to homeless people, and plans are underway to continue this programme beyond the lockdown period.

Department officials also told the committees that they have identified increased incidents of violence against women and children, and in an effort to mitigate these, the department will increase the capacity of the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre to respond to more calls.

The Chairperson of the Select Committee on Health and Social Services, Ms Maurencia Gillion, urged South Africans to be patient and continue to adhere to the regulations of the lockdown.

By Sakhile Mokoena
23 April 2020