R350 Covid-19 grants may now go to those who make less than R624 per month – back to the food poverty line

Business Insider SA
(Gallo Images)
(Gallo Images)

  • The R350 Covid-19 grants should be paid to those who make less than R624 per month, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu formally proposed on Thursday.
  • That is a 78% increase from the current R350 means test, which was imposed in April.
  • R624 is the national food poverty line.
  • The food poverty line had previously been used as the means test, but the test was tightened under budget pressures.
  • Several organisations have pushed for the special social relief of distress (SRD) grants to be turned into a form of permanent, universal income support.
  • For more stories go to

The means test for Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD), the R350 monthly payments instituted during the pandemic, should be hiked by 78%, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu proposed on Thursday.

Zulu gazetted a proposed update to the regulations underpinning the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) payments, calling for comments by 29 July. 

One of the proposed changes sets the "income threshold for insufficient means" to R624, up from the current R350.

That is the fundamental test of whether someone is eligible for the monthly payment. There are other requirements; recipients must be South Africans or documented foreigners legally residing in the country, and may not unreasonably refuse to accept employment or educational opportunities," for instance. But the first test is whether they have access to more than the sufficient means, which was controversially set to R350 in April.

R624 is the national food poverty line set by Statistics South Africa in September 2021. That is how much a person requires to meet the recommended minimum daily energy intake, the agency calculated at the time. That separates it from the lower boundary poverty line, which adds non-food items essential to any household, and which is set at R890.


That makes the food poverty line a statistical tool used to measure absolute poverty, not a hard measure of how much money is required to survive in South Africa.

The means test was lowered to R350 in April, in what some experts described as the national treasury forcing the department of social development to exclude more people from the grant in order to stay within budget.

The means test had originally been set to R595, the food poverty at the time the pandemic struck.

It was not clear exactly how many people were excluded from the payments when the income limit was lowered – and it is not clear what hiking it to R624 per month will mean for national finances. 

Several organisations have called for the R350 grants to become a permanent feature of the South African social support landscape, so that they can become the basis for universal income support, and perhaps a universal basic income system.

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