Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu has published new data showing the number of South Africans rely on grants given by the government.

Responding in a recent parliamentary Q&A, Zulu provided data on the numbers of grant recipients per year as at 31 March of each year from 1996/97. Zulu’s data further expressed this number as a percentage of the population based on estimates.

The minister said that data from 1994 is not available, as this had not yet been consolidated into a single database, but was managed provincially.

Financial year Daily stats as of 31 March Population estimates (% share)
1996/97 3 018 909 41 226 700 (7%)
1997/98 2 832 156 42 130 500 (7%)
1998/99 2 923 718 43 054 306 (7%)
1999/00 3 034 381 43 685 699 (7%)
2000/01 3 864 463 44 560 644 (9%)
2001/02 4 033 384 45 454 211 (9%)
2002/03 4 969 666 46 429 823 (11%)
2003/04 6 494 115 46 586 607 (14%)
2004/05 9 421 654 46 888 200 (20%)
2005/06 10 974 076 47 390 900 (23%)
2006/07 12 015 059 47 850 700 (25%)
2007/08 12 423 739 48 687 000 (26%)
2008/09 13 072 173 49 320 500 (27%)
2009/10 14 057 365 49 991 300 (28%)
2010/11 14 935 832 50 586 757 (30%)
2011/12 15 407 194 50 586 757 (30%)
2012/13 16 106 110 52 982 000 (30%)
2013/14 15 932 473 54 002 000 (30%)
2014/15 16 642 643 54 956 900 (30%)
2015/16 16 991 634 55 908 900 (30%)
2016/17 17 200 525 56 521 900 (30%)
2017/18 17 509 995 57 725 600 (30%)
2018/19 17 811 745 58 775 022 (30%)
2019/20 18 290 592 59 622 350 (31%)

The increasing reliance on grants can be partially attributed to the change of power in 1994 and the fact that many South Africans would not necessarily have been given access to grants under the apartheid government.

However, the opposition Democratic Alliance has been critical of the figures, noting that nearly a third of South Africans now rely on grants according to the data.

“For many households grant payments have replaced salaries as their source of income. While the DA supports the payment of grants, the creation of jobs is of the utmost importance. South Africans need jobs, not just for financial stability but also for the dignity it provides, and the government has utterly failed to stimulate job growth,” it said.

While a natural inclination would be to blame the Covid-19 pandemic, the DA said that the first sharp increase to 20% of the population receiving grants happened in the 2004/05 financial year and has been steadily rising ever since, with 30% of South Africans having to rely on grants since 2010/11.

“The data clearly indicates that the ANC government and its policies have had an active hand in impoverishing South Africans long before global economic implosions, State Capture or the Covid-19 pandemic made their marks in the history books,” it said.


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