At least 17 million South Africans receive social grants from the government every month. So what are they, and how do they work?

The government-run South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) manages grants, which are paid directly to beneficiaries at paypoints countrywide or paid into their bank accounts. Payments are also made to a SASSA card, which works like a bank card. Beneficiaries can use cards at supermarkets for groceries or to withdraw cash. The government spent R150 billion on social grants in the 2017/18 financial year.

Social grants are only for people who need financial help, such as the elderly, disabled and vulnerable children.

A recent investigation into SASSA found that it had an unlawful contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), who pay out social grants. This dispute was not yet resolved at the time of writing, but SASSA has meanwhile started making direct payments to grant beneficiaries. SASSA has also encouraged beneficiaries to register bank accounts into which their grants can be paid, to discourage robberies and fraud.

Elder Abuse SA works to raise awareness of the risks at paypoints. ‘If a beneficiary cashes their grant at the paypoint, they must remember to be aware that there is a risk to carrying cash and they should try to walk in groups rather than alone,’ advises Pat Lindgren, director of the non-government group.

‘The pin number attached to the SASSA or bank card should not be given out to anyone, nor should it be written down and kept with the card. If the card and pin number are together it makes it easy for anyone to misuse the card,’ she adds.

‘The grant is meant to meet the needs of the grant beneficiary – for their food, shelter, medication and clothing,’ says Lindgren.

Esther Lewis, spokeswoman for the Western Cape Social Development Department, says pamphlets containing important information are handed out to beneficiaries of grants. ‘We encourage people to seek the assistance of a social worker who can advise them on how to handle situations where family members are trying to extort or abuse them,’ she says.

The Social Development Department, which oversees SASSA, has an educational programme aimed at protecting grant beneficiaries from theft and abuse.

  • Care Dependency Grant (R1 690 per month) Given to caregivers of children under the age of 18 who have permanent and severe disabilities. The child must be found disabled by a medical officer.
  • Foster Child Grant (R920 per month) The child must be under 18 and a court order must designate a foster parent to care for them. The child must remain in the care of the foster parent.
  • Disability Grant (R1 690 per month) For persons aged 18 to 59 who are medically unfit for work (mentally or physically). You cannot be the recipient of other grants, and must not be cared for in a state institution.
  • Grant in Aid (R400 per month)* If you are living on a social grant but can’t look after yourself, you can get an additional grant to pay the person who takes full-time care of you.
  • Older Person’s Grant (R1 690 per month) You can apply for this grant if you are 60 or older. You cannot be a recipient of other grants, and you must not be cared for in a state institution.
  • War veteran’s grant (R1 620 per month) You must be over the age of 60 (or disabled) and have fought in World War I, World War II or the Korean War. You cannot be in state care or receive other grants.

*Set to increase to R410 p/m on 1 October 2018


Grants are offered to the destitute, orphans and people who need home-based care. The country’s ministry of labour and home affairs also offers a women’s grant to ‘help women groups with seed money to start their own income-generation projects,’ states the government’s website.

The government offers child grants to assist around 80 000 children countrywide. Thousands of the country’s children are orphaned due to HIV. The country also works with foreign donors to offer grants, such as gardening kits and assistance to subsistence farmers. At the start of 2018, the European Union granted Lesotho 4.5 million euros to assist with its social-grants programmes.

Social grants are paid to the aged, disabled, children and other vulnerable groups. A recent report indicated that 200 000 Namibians receive social grants each month.

Rowena Derby of Athlone in Cape Town cares for six children. She says the foster child grants help, but don’t cover all expenses. ‘My mother also lives with me and I am the only breadwinner in a house of 10,’ she says. ‘I earn only R6 000 a month and that just covers my rent.’

She receives three grants of R920 each for three of the children whose parents left them with her. The unemployed mother of the other three children receives grants, but does not give the money to Rowena.

She believes the government should help with groceries and vouchers instead of just money. ‘There are a lot of single working mothers like me who need help,’ she says. ‘I had to sell my car because I needed money for the children. All you want is to give the children a better chance in life. And you can’t give them that chance if you don’t have the finances. I want to start a group for parents like me. For me, it’s not only about getting social grants, but coming together and showing our children a bit more in life.’

By Yazeed Kamaldien


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THE 101 ON SOCIAL GRANTS THE 101 ON SOCIAL GRANTS Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on April 10, 2018 Rating: 5
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