Poverty and inequality pose the greatest threat to the success of South Africa's young democracy. A bold initiative is urgently needed to confront this challenge.

We, the undersigned organisations, call for the introduction of a universal Basic Income Grant as a key intervention to combat poverty and to improve the lives of the majority of South Africans.

At least 22 million people in South Africa--well over half the population--live in poverty. On average, they survive on R144 per person per month. A Basic Income Grant would provide rapid and sustained relief to all South Africans by:

  • providing everyone with a minimum level of income,
  • enabling the nation's poorest households to better meet their basic needs,
  • stimulating equitable economic development,
  • promoting family and community stability, and
  • affirming and supporting the inherent dignity of all.

The Basic Income Grant should be founded on the following fundamental principles:

  • Universal Coverage: It should be available to everyone, from cradle to grave,and should not be subject to a means test.
  • Relationship to existing grants: It should expand the social security net. No individual should receive less in social and assistance grants than before the introduction of the Basic Income Grant.
  • Amount: The grant should be no less than R100 per person per month on introduction and should be inflation indexed.
  • Delivery Mechanisms: Payments should be facilitated through Public Institutions. Using community Post Banks would have the additional benefit of enhancing community access to much-needed banking services.
  • Financing: A substantial portion of the cost of the grant should be recovered progressively through the tax system. This would demonstrate solidarity by all South Africans in efforts to eliminate poverty. The remaining cost should be borne by the fiscus. A range of new measures should be introduced to increase revenue so that the additional cost can be accommodated without squeezing out other social expenditure.

In recent weeks, the following organisations have come together to endorse this basic platform and to commit ourselves to working with government to make the Basic Income Grant a reality. We call on all South Africans to join us in this campaign and invite them to add their endorsement to this platform.

Alliance for Children's Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS)
Black Sash
Child Health Policy Institute
Congress of South African Trade Unions
Development Resources Centre
Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation
Gender Advocacy Programme
Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape
South African Council of Churches
South African National NGO Coalition
Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference
Treatment Action Campaign

3 July 2001

This information is distributed by the Public Policy Liaison Office of the South African Council of Churches. The Public Policy Liaison Office monitors and analyzes key public policy issues under consideration by parliament and government ministries, alerts government to the concerns of the SACC, and assists people of faith to be more familiar with and involved in public policy debates.

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