Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 27 October 2011
The trouble with the call made by the Congress
of the People for the future characterisation of South Africa as
a welfare state is that South Africa already is a welfare state,
albeit one without a sufficiently strong
economic base to support or justify such an ambitious
Honourable Gabela will be aware that the
number of social grant beneficiaries in our country has
increased by more than 300 percent in the last nine years. South
Africa has effectively become a welfare state, with the number
of social grant beneficiaries on a constant rise. Without
adequate economic opportunities for the recipients of these
grants, the social grants alone risk creating a dependency
syndrome among the poorest of the poor.
In the 2009/2010 financial year our country
had nearly 14 million social grant beneficiaries. The
child-support grant made up the highest share with over nine
million beneficiaries. The old-age grant was second highest,
with over two million beneficiaries. The 2010/2011 allowance for
social grants represented a 12 percent increase year-on-year.
Currently, more than thirty percent of the
country's population of 49.9 million are receiving social
grants. The National Treasury has predicted that by 2012 there
would be 16 million beneficiaries of social grants. This is due
to the inclusion of 18-year-olds, up from the previous age limit
of 15, for eligibility for the child support grant.
In the current financial year, social grant
expenditure is estimated at over R100-billion, a figure large
enough to prompt some commentators, such as economist Mike
Schüssler, to label South Africa as the "biggest welfare state"
in the world.
This perception reflects the government’s
tendency to constantly expand the social safety net which
includes state pensions, disability allowances, child support,
foster care, care dependency, and war veterans’ grants in the
country. We also need to note that applicants can at present
qualify for more than one grant at a time.
We, of course, understand and appreciate why
this is being done. It is impossible for the government to close
its eyes before poverty and ignore people when they are
suffering and do not have anything to eat or anywhere to stay.
But it is equally important to understand that social grants –
with the exception of state pensions and disability grants – are
a mere stop gap solution to the underlying problems of
unemployment and poverty.
By the ruling party’s own admission – and I
quote former national Minister of Social Development, Honourable
Edna Molewa here - the government grant system was never
intended to be permanent, particularly in the area of young
Rather than expand the social security net
indefinitely until it becomes unsustainable, the priority for
government should be to develop marketable skills and establish
workable programmes for empowering people who are on the social
grant system, particularly the unemployed youth and young
mothers, to become self-sufficient and economically independent
of the state.
We need to remember that we need to grow the
number of people who are able to actively participate in the
economy, develop our country, fend for themselves and pay taxes
so we can help those who genuinely cannot help themselves.
Rather than accept Honourable Gabela’s motion
at face value, we need to vigorously debate its merits in this
House and beyond when we communicate public policy to our
constituents. And for this opportunity to debate a pertinent
socio-economic issue of the day in this House today we in the
Official Opposition are most grateful.
While we appreciate the need for an adequate
social security net for those who rely on it, we also need to
listen carefully to those experts who are critical of the
current social grant system. South Africa's dependency ratio
beneficiaries of social grants to one taxpayer is unsustainable.
Welfare dependency culture is a thorny problem
in that it obstructs a healthy self-empowerment culture.
Welfare-dependent individuals tend to sacrifice their futures
for what they see as ‘free’ social grants. Welfare may subject
people to perpetual dependency for generations. It can easily
turn into servitude.
Unearned grants obstruct development of the
individual’s qualities, attitudes and efforts that support
advancement and divert attention from development. In this
regard, welfare pauperises its recipients. This culture has
sapped communist, socialist and capitalist countries alike.
Welfare dependency undermines the status and prestige of
self-help and self- reliance and turns viable states into
This public perception has some basis in
reality when people observe that their government is giving some
well-connected people a free ride. Work, including state
employment, has to be depoliticised before a country can build
an honest, equal culture geared towards personal achievement.
The IFP’s response to Honourable Gabela’s
motion is therefore as follows: Rather than focus on building a
welfare state for the sake of having one, we need to be
encouraging people to think about what they can do for
themselves and others, not to wait for government to do
everything for them.
At the same time, we need to be approaching
social welfare from a sustainable perspective, opting to build
skills and protect basic health, as opposed to merely resorting
to free handouts.
I thank you.
Contact: Dr Lionel Mtshali, 082 556 0224