/ 25 February 2024

It’s okay for ‘our people’ to buy beer with R350 grant, says Ramaphosa

Gettyimages 2030414078 594x594
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the African National Congress party manifesto launch in Durban, South Africa, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Photo: Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg via Getty Images

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa quipped at the weekend that there was nothing wrong with beneficiaries of the R350 social relief of distress grant who decide to use their grants to buy beer because “they are our people”.

Ramaphosa made the comment to a packed Moses Mabhida stadium on Saturday during the launch of the ANC’s manifesto for this year’s elections. Recent polling shows that the ruling party’s support could dip below 50% in the vote, set for 29 May.

But the party’s supporters flocked to the stadium in their thousands despite the scorching heat, with hundreds having to be allowed onto the pitch because the stadium had reached its capacity. Water became the most sought after commodity as the party did not provide enough for those who were at the stadium.  

The crowd painted the stadium in a sea of the ANC’s black, green and gold colours. A group of supporters marched around the stadium, hoisting a mock coffin with the labels “RIP MK Party” and “RIP Zuma” — a dig at the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party of former ANC president Jacob Zuma which is gaining momentum in KwaZulu-Natal.

The new party — which controversially derives its name from the military wing of the ANC during the fight against apartheid — shocked its detractors in recent by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal by snatching away votes from the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC.

On Saturday, veterans of the original Umkhonto weSizwe made their presence felt at the ANC’s manifesto launch, in their military regalia. In a move apparently aimed at reinforcing the ANC’s ownership of the name, the veterans were invited on stage to sing and dance to struggle songs.

MK veterans have in the past shown strong support for Zuma — including being deployed to his homestead in Nkandla to “protect” him in 2021 after the constitutional court ruled that he should be sentenced to 15 months in prisonment for defying an order to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry into stape capture.

Speaking during the manifesto launch, Ramaphosa drew loud cheers from the crowd when he announced that the R350 social relief of distress grant — which the government introduced to mitigate the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic — would continue to be disbursed to beneficiaries.

His announcement came a day after ANC supports had serenaded Ramaphosa while on the campaign trail in Umlazi on Friday, singing ‘uRamaphosa uyam’thanda umahlalela, uvele am’nike i R350’ (Ramaphosa loves an unemployed person, he just gives you R350).

At Saturday’s manifesto event, Ramaphosa said the minister of finance was working with that of social development on possibly increasing the R350 monthly stipend.

“We will utilise the R350 grant as a mechanism towards phasing in basic income support. This is the R350 that others did not want, some asked why we give this R350 because you make our people depend on it,” he said in a swipe against the ANC’s political opponents.

“This R350 is working; it’s helping the community, some use the R350 to buy food with it, some use it to go look for jobs, some use it to start their businesses, yes there others who go and buy beers with it, even that is fine because they are still our people.”

Ramaphosa said the ANC was working hard to restore the trust and confidence it had lost from some in the electorate. He said despite its shortcomings, there was no other organisation that had the experience, knowledge, leadership and capability of his party, which has governed South Africa since the fall of white apartheid rule 30 years ago.

“That’s why we say we are the only organisation that can take South Africa forward. If we have learnt anything, we have learnt from our mistakes but we have also learnt from our experience. We are an organisation that has been led by giants like Nelson Mandela. All the other parties — let them point out the leaders that are gigantic who they have had. They can’t even count more than four.”

“We count from John Langalibalele Dube, right through to Mandela, Oliver Tambo to Moses Mabhida, we count them all and they have imparted their experience and knowledge on us.”

He said the ANC would put forward hard working party members as public representatives after the elections, and that they would all be held to a high standard of accountability in the spirit of “bathu pele” (people first).

“People will work in the coming administration. There is no place for those who want to be careerists, who want to be corrupt, there is no place also for those who want to be factional. They do not belong to the ANC and some of them are just leaving on their own and we have seen it,” Ramaphosa said.