Johannesburg – The EFF has warned the government not to stop the 6-month unemployment income grant for the jobless if it wants peace in South Africa.
Speaking on the EFF’s online virtual rally as part of commemorating Freedom Day, party leader Julius Malema said the relief interventions by the government had to be increased instead of being phased out as its beneficiaries remained in poverty.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that old age and disability grants would be increased by R250, child support grants increased by R300 for May and June and R500 for the next four months, while the unemployed would, for the first time, receive a temporary grant of R350.
Malema said the EFF welcomed the increase as the party had been calling for grants to be doubled, as well as calling for government to introduce basic income grants for the unemployed.
“We want to caution the current government that if you want peace in this country, you should keep the basic income grant for all our people who do not have jobs and are not employed and it must be increased,” Malema said.
Government has accused those who call for the temporary grants to be made permanent of encouraging South Africans to oppose the government’s policy on the grants.
On Friday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who also accused the media of unsettling people, stressed that the grants would be stopped after six months. “We explained that this is a temporary measure to support people. In October that will be lifted. Let us not agitate our people to do the wrong thing.”
Malema also cautioned the government against evicting homeless people from the temporary shelters arranged for them during the lockdown.
“What we will not appreciate is to take homeless people back to the streets immediately after the containment of the coronavirus. Let us be among some of the few countries in the world to abolish homelessness.
“The homeless people currently housed by the government should be rehabilitated and integrated back into normal society.”
Delivering his Freedom Day message, Ramaphosa said the Covid-19 pandemic, which has now infected 4500 people and killed 87, has set South Africa’s struggling economy back by many years. “It will take a great deal of effort and resources for our society and our economy to recover. The challenges we faced before this health emergency remain. Even as we turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic, we will still have to confront a contracting economy, unemployment, crime and corruption, a weakened state and other pressing concerns,” he said.
He admitted that the pandemic has exposed the country’s sharp inequality and poverty levels, which saw many households battling to put food on the table while others continued to thrive.
While the EFF warned the government about the possible increase in infections if the economy was reopened on May 1, the DA has called on Ramaphosa’s administration to widen the risk-adjusted strategy to reopen.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said the party also rejected the introduction of a curfew and the deployment of around 75 000 soldiers to enforce it. “If the government fails to heed our warning to rescind the planned enforcement of a military curfew, the DA reserves our right to challenge the move in court, because we place it (faith) in citizens rather than in coercion,” Steenhuisen said.
By Siviwe Feketha