When the dust settles – where do we go next?

The past three weeks in South Africa have brought to the surface historical disparities and inequalities. The unrest, third wave of Covid with the consequential lockdown and damage to livelihoods has and will continue to weigh most heavily on the vulnerable people in our cities and communities. 

As we watched events play out in our communities or on the television and radio, we were gripped and grieved by violence and desperation that has been normalised. Did you wonder when will this end, what needs to be done? As individuals, civil society, and faith communities, we need to take this moment to think about what will enable people to have a decent standard of living, meaningful employment and live in an equal society.

While the dust has temporarily settled and clean-up operations ensue, the circumstances that led to this moment continue and will likely worsen. In a context of high unemployment, poverty, and inequality, the events of the last three weeks beg us to ask where we go next.

The announcement to reinstate the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant has in some sense been welcomed. However, a strong call from civil society has been made to make amendments to this grant to ensure that it is not paltry and insignificant for people its aims to reach. According to Aliya Chikte and Gilad Isaacs in a recent article in Groundup, the current SRD grant can only cover “60% of a person’s minimum required food intake” [https://www.groundup.org.za/article/yes-we-can-afford-a-universal-basic-income-guarantee/].

What about the rest of an individual’s basic needs?

The R350 SRD grant and the inclusion of unemployed caregivers as recipients of the grant are steps towards where we need to go. This is a starting point. There is much that needs to be done. Increasing this grant and including all caregivers are crucial to keeping the most marginalised households nourished and providing for their most basic needs. This grant, a lifeline for many, needs to be converted into a more permanent solution. Steps must be taken towards implementing a Universal Basic Income Grant if we are to change the circumstances that have brought us to this moment.

We cannot let what has happened settle with the dust. This moment in South Africa was avoidable. It will happen again. The dust has settled, and we need to think about what will bring meaningful and permanent change to ensure we don’t end up here again.

Facebook: Jesuit Refugee Service Southern Africa           Twitter: @JRSSouthAfrica

Abigail Dawson

Abigail Dawson holds a Masters in Development Studies, Sociology, from the University of Witwatersrand. Her activist and academic interests have focused on migration in a South African context. She is a qualified social worker and has provided counselling for migrant women and children. She hopes to bring change to the current public and global narrative on migration through effective and creative communication, networking and advocacy to ensure equitable communities for all people living in South Africa.

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