Working paper number: 31
Author: Vayda Megannon


The South African government introduced the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant in April/May of 2020 in response to the socio-economic hardship related to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the fastest big roll out and biggest fast rollout of a social protection cash transfer in Africa thus far. This paper explores the experiences of 41, poor, formally unemployed South African citizens who were eligible to receive the SRD grant. Primarily, data suggests that the majority of the sample was able to successfully receive the SRD grant. Secondly, material and technocratic barriers presented challenges which needed to be navigated in order to receive the cash transfer. Thirdly, technical challenges systematically excluded some of the poor from accessing the SRD grant, despite the intention to serve the poor during a time of crisis. Challenges to accessing the SRD grant are similar to those reported when accessing various other social grants in South Africa (such as the Child Support Grant). These challenges include lack of identity documents and needing to travel long distances. This paper argues that material, technocratic and technical challenges which hinder access to the SRD grant are political. Overall, the SRD grant can be understood as a success in that it was able to serve millions of poor South Africans relatively quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Publication file: Megannon