Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu has proposed adjusting the income threshold for the social relief of distress grant from R350 to R624, which means significantly more South Africans are set to qualify for the grant.

The change was proposed by Zulu in a government gazette published on Thursday (7 July) with comments open until 29 July. The gazette also notes that this threshold can be changed later on by the minister.

South Africa’s food poverty line in 2022 is currently set at R624 and refers to the amount that individuals need to afford the minimum required daily energy intake. The lower bound poverty line is R890, which is the food poverty line, plus the average amount derived from non-food items of households whose total expenditure is equal to the food poverty line.

Data published by the Department of Social Development in May shows almost half of all South Africans now rely on some financial support from the government. The department said that about 31% of the South African population relies on social grants – which include everything from disability to childcare.

However, there are approximately 10 million beneficiaries who depend on the monthly R350 special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant alone. This increases the number of South Africans who rely on social transfers to about 47%, it said.

Data from Bloomberg and Old Mutual shows that the country currently has twice as many welfare beneficiaries as registered taxpayers. The government is now considering the feasibility of introducing a basic income grant in South Africa which is expected to widen the social safety net further.

Read: Basic income grant coming for South Africa: agency