The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Mondli Gungubele, to urgently request a meeting to deal with the looming disability grant crisis, where the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, must account for how her Department intends to handle the disability grant crisis, and to provide a guarantee that the grant reassessment deadlines will be extended at least until March 2021.
This comes after it became known that thousands of disability grant recipients are at risk of losing their lifesaving grants due to the ANC-led government’s failure to extend the deadline for disability grant re-assessments during the lockdown period.
It is Parliament’s duty to hold the Minister to account and since it is people’s lives and livelihoods at stake, we cannot wait for Parliament to start its normal business in February. The Chair must act now and summon Minister Zulu.
During the initial lockdown, the requirement that disability grant recipients receive bi-annual assessments to confirm their disability was suspended, and all grant benefits were extended for an additional few months. This was done to avoid forcing vulnerable beneficiaries out of their homes to undergo these assessments, and to reduce assessment demand during a period of limited healthcare staff capacity.
To date, the government has failed to prepare for the upcoming flood of beneficiaries who will need to undergo their reassessments, thereby putting many vulnerable South Africans at risk of losing their much-needed disability grants in the coming weeks.
The DA has called for government to further extend these expiring disability grants until March 2021 to allow for grant recipients to complete their reassessments timeously. However, Minister Zulu stated in a reply to a DA parliamentary question that such an extension would be too expensive, at an estimated cost of R1.2 billion.
We reject this excuse as it further demonstrates the ANC-led governments misguided fiscal priorities. The ANC has been more than willing to shift over R10.5 billion to bail out the failing SAA, whilst being simultaneously frugal on necessities such as vaccines and disability grants which would directly improve the lives of ordinary South Africans.
As usual, the ANC government’s skewed fiscal priorities and lack of planning is placing South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens at risk of losing their much-needed disability grants in the coming weeks.
The DA remains committed to protecting the lifelines of South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens, and we will work to prevent these citizens from being harmed by the ANC-led governments incompetence.