there was tension with the parliamentary committee, there was tension with communities, communities in the Western Cape and in Gauteng, and it arose because they simply thought that the State Maintenance Grant could be expanded without being transformed. Now the purpose of the Lund commission was not just to look at that grant, but at the basket of services. It was based in some ways on the Bolsa Familia grant that you have in Brazil and to a degree in Mexico though we never developed it as extensively, inasmuch as we already had the grant itself, and also because it started at a very low level, R100 per month per child and was to be extended incrementally. Francie Lund had proposed a higher figure, but because we were transitioning from the State Maintenance Grant to this grant and because we were looking at fiscal constraints we couldn’t do it all at one time.
It was intended to be linked to what we also had in welfare, the flagship poverty eradication programme – the War on Poverty Programme. It covered single mothers and essentially was supposed to be single mothers with children who are on the state support grant. Madiba was involved in the launching of several of these flagship projects across the country. We had launches in places like Driefontein, Fraserburg, all over the country as the archives would show. The purpose was to look at skilling women, training them to become entrepreneurs, looking at their self-sufficiency so that by the time the child is off the maintenance grant they had some form of sustainable and independent income. This was also to be linked with the department of labour and the department of public works, because we wanted them to involve the beneficiaries in public works programmes. We wanted to link with health and education and so on because we wanted the children to go regularly to clinics with their Road to Health chart which they get at birth, which were also supposed to be cross checked by the department of welfare and population, which in essence became SASSA later, so that they could ensure that these children were accessing the full remit of government services. It wasn’t just the grant that they were getting – they were getting healthcare and we also intended that education would follow children’s progress because clearly by being on grants they were generally from families at risk. Now it didn’t happen evenly because it was in the early years of our democracy and you didn’t have in place a holistic approach in government. We also wanted the social workers and later the community development workers to group the grant recipients in communities so that they could come together, forming something like a cooperative group whose members would put say R10 in to a pool to do group buying or, with the department of agriculture giving them seedlings to have vegetable gardens. The intention was to have a holistic approach. But in that government it was not easy to work together in a coordinated way, and it is something that bedevils governments or organisations all the time. Even in subsequent years there was always this challenge: ‘Who is the lead department? Who gets the credit? Why should I be as involved as others?’ It was also a challenge for public servants to think this way: it was a new approach and it wasn’t easy for them to adopt it. It was a government that was coming out of a racially stratified public service that was still being built into one service, and now you are not only telling them you must become one and provide services to all South Africans irrespective of their race, you were also saying to them that you want them to provide more sustainable and holistic services, which was something they hadn’t think about. So that was the intention and Madiba would at times call me if he got calls directly from communities or leaders or the portfolio committee. I never knew what the call was about so I would go along with a case full of files about the most burning issues on my desk or an issue that I thought was a thorny issue because I knew that there were challenges from the portfolio committee. The public hearings were quite intense in Parliament with major attacks personally and otherwise, and some from communities about what they saw as a right being taken from them.
TT Eventually the debate regarding the level of the grant was resolved, and the position changed after an NEC meeting – what role, if any, might Madiba have played in bringing about that resolution?
Part of his role was: one, looking at the resources available; and two, that we had to ensure that access for all children. There was also a great debate whether it should be universal or means tested. There was a challenge around it and we said the budget couldn’t carry a universal grant, it had to be means tested and target the poorest, either 20% or 40%.
So he did play a role, but I can’t remember his exact Intervention verbatim. We did presentations and looked at access, reach and all, and that was where I think we changed the amount and reached a compromise on the amount of the grant.