The ANC’s Social Welfare Programmes are Creating even Further Dependence on the State

One of the government's main duties is to help bring relief to the poor, but what is clear is that social grants are not the answer.

In August 1997, the post-Apartheid government, led by the ANC, published the White Paper for Social Welfare to establish the framework in which the social welfare system would operate in South Africa.

Amongst the goals listed in its preamble were the goals to create a society that:

‘releases people’s creative energies, help them achieve their aspirations, build human capacity and self-reliance, and participate fully in all spheres of social, economic, and political life…’. It states further that ‘South Africans will be afforded the opportunity to play an active role in promoting their own well-being and in contributing to the growth and development of our nation’.

The opposite happened.

Instead of creating an independent and self-supporting public, South Africa’s social welfare programmes are further deepening the welfare-receiving public’s dependence on the State.

Logically, for social grants to have been deemed a success, the number of people dependent on them should decrease over time – again, the opposite has happened. Businesstech reports that the number of social grant dependents has grown from just over 3 million people in 1996 to just over 18 million in 2020 (31% of the population).

Six times more people rely on grants now than was the case 25 years ago!

Offset that against the country’s unemployment rates which as recently as 2021, comprised  33% of the population (just over 19 million people). 19 million people are jobless and 18 million people are reliant on grants - coincidence? Remember, most (if not all) social relief is received by the unemployed public – it is usually a prerequisite for qualifying to receive support. With unemployment and grant dependants’ numbers continually rising, and the ANC not seeming likely to change tack soon, more and more South Africans are bound to be dependent on further welfare initiatives. 

Let’s go back to the budget speech delivered by our Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana earlier this year. He announced that over the next three years, R3,3 trillion will be allocated to the social wage to support ‘vulnerable and low-income households.’ Compare this to the R76 billion allocated to job creation programmes or the R20 billion allocated for the ‘Bounce-back scheme’ to support small businesses in distress owing to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The budget for the social wage is just over 34 times larger than the budgets for job creation and small business relief combined. Incredible!

That is an active investment to have more money put towards having the destitute public dependent on government handouts rather than facilitating them making their own money.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further crippled what is a desperate economy in South Africa, unsurprisingly, the government responded by releasing a Covid-19 relief grant. People are queuing up for even more grants instead of jobs.

The Worldbank reports that South Africa spends 3.3% of its GDP and 15.4% of total government spending on social welfare programmes, making our country one of the highest spenders on social welfare in the world.  If that statistic does not prove state dependence, what does?

Let’s try over 18 million people reliant on grants…not good enough? How about the R3.3 trillion budget mentioned above? Still not? Just imagine the scale of unrest there would be if the government was to discontinue the provision of social grants.

It is indeed one of the government’s main duties to help bring relief to the poor but, what is clear is that social grants are not the answer.

We now have over 25 years of proof, and yet, we are now perhaps more reliant on government than we have ever been.

As the popular saying goes, give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish, you feed him for lifetime. As South Africans, we would be better served if the efforts directed towards social welfare were directed towards job creation, better unlocking mine and your #FreedomToEarn. The best welfare programme is a job – that is if we are serious about creating that self-reliant society we so dream of.