Dept disputes reports of vote buying

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Social Development says a recent newspaper report alleging that government was collaborating with a political party to provide the poor with food parcels to get votes, was false.

"The newspaper accused government of collaborating with the African National Congress in enticing voters with food parcels in order to buy votes, this is not only false, but offensive to the poor as it suggests that people facing hardship are unable to make their own decisions," Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said.

The minister reiterated that social grants were for all South Africans and permanent residents of South Africa, irrespective of their political affiliation.

In November 2008, Minister Skweyiya announced the allocation of a further R500 million to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and provincial Departments of Social Development to provide Social Relief of Distress (SRD) to households or individuals facing hardship.

However, it is only since the start of the election period that the media and opposition parties have made allegations regarding the distribution of the SRD grants, the minister said.

"The amount was added from the R124 million allocated to SASSA and to provincial departments, which formed part of the SRD programme for the 2008/9 financial year," he said.

Minister Skweyiya noted that all provinces had spent the funds allocated to them, saying this was a clear indication that the SRD was a necessary intervention by government.

"The fact of the matter is that the SRD grant has been in place pre-1994 and we urge political parties to explain the role of the SRD correctly and to assist our people to access this grant.

"This allocation reflects our commitment to address the challenges of rising food and fuel prices faced by many of our people, we encourage civil society and faith-based organisations to continue to raise awareness of the social relief of distress," Minister Skweyiya said.

SRD is a temporary provision of assistance intended for people facing hardships and unable to meet their or their families' most basic needs.

Mr Skweyiya explained that the increased allocation to the SRD grant was informed by the worsening global financial crisis in 2008.

He said the department, in conjunction with the Special Investigating Unit has run a successful anti-fraud campaign with regard to grants and invited anyone with tangible information about these allegations to contact 0800 60 10 11 so that the department can be able to investigate and take corrective action if required.

SRD is issued monthly or for any other period for a maximum period of three months. Extension of the period by a further three months may be granted in exceptional cases.

In order to qualify for SRD, the applicant must comply with one or more of the following conditions such as being medically unfit to undertake remunerative work for a period of less than six months.

The breadwinner is deceased and insufficient means are available or the applicant has been affected by a disaster, and the specific area has not yet been declared a disaster area; and the applicant has appealed against the suspension of his or her grant.

The person can also qualify if they are not receiving assistance from any other organisations.

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