Protesters march on National Treasury after budget last week

About 80 people marched to the offices of the National Treasury in Pretoria on Thursday, protesting against the budget announcements last week and calling for a Basic Income Grant, an increase in the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant and its extension beyond March 2022.

The march was led by activists from #PayTheGrants, Fight Inequality Alliance and Gauteng Housing Crisis Committee. They held placards which read, “Austerity - the pandemic of the poor”, “Towards a BIG Basic Income Guarantee of R1,500”, “#Austerity kills” and “Extend the SRD grant.”

They complained that Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana had not discussed increasing the Covid-19 SRD grant from R350 a month in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement on 11 November. They want the grant increased in line with the current Food Poverty Line of R624 per person per month.

In a memorandum handed to Lutendo Ramalebana of the National Treasury, the activists demanded that the minister “abandon the present path of budget cuts, recognise the Covid SRD grant as a necessary interim solution and commit to a fair and open process for debating and developing income support policy.”

Addressing the group before handing over the memorandum, General Moyo, Gauteng coordinator of Fight Inequality Alliance, said the minister should consider a Basic Income Guarantee of R1,500 a month.

“The R1,500 is a start. Essential things such as petrol, paraffin, and transport increase every year, but not our grants,” said Moyo.

In a statement, the civil society organisations said, “The Medium-Term Budget Policy Speech delivered yet further promises of austerity. Promises we expected, but cannot accept. Without genuine opposition, the National Treasury will continue to push our people into destitution in the name of ‘fiscal consolidation’.”

Melita Ngcobo from shack dweller movement Abahlali BaseMjondolo said because of Covid-19, many people had lost jobs and could not buy food. “We have the right to healthy food. We have the right to land. We don’t have places to stay.” Thwala Lucky of the Sisonke Revolutionary Movement said they were tired of corruption and looting in the government, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer.