2020 Health and Social Protection Other

The Promise of Payday: Exploring the role of state cash transfers in post-apartheid rural South Africa

Stefan Granlund

Cash transfer programs have become a significant tool in efforts to reduce poverty. Focusing on the Child Support Grant (CSG), this DDB report explores the material and socio-relational implications of state cash transfers in rural South Africa. The report was presented during the seminar Att verkligen förändra: lärdomar om deltagande, socialt entreprenörskap och fattigdomsbekämpning i Afrika. 

Main findings

  • In a context of mass-unemployment and declining cultivation, cash transfers have had both protective and productive effects on livelihoods.
  • For poor rural villages, like Cutwini and Manteku, grant payday represents the beating heart of the economy. For the eligible recipients, the household and indirectly for the wider local economy. It is not simply an economic transfer, which keeps individuals in households and communities afloat, it also becomes part of, and reshapes, social relations.
  • Strategic use of grant income by recipients make small improvements in their livelihoods over time, improvements that, to the women, are important and labour-saving. The CSG meant a great deal to their sense of independence and dignity, contrary to the argument that the cash transfers create a dependency culture and harms people’s dignity.
  • Many participants in this study are keenly aware of, and feel disrespected by means of, negative stereotypes of CSG money, such as imali yeqolo (‘lying down on your back-money’), but also through disrespectful encounters with SASSA officials where (especially younger) women are questioned whether they are deserving of this money.
Stefan Granlund defended his dissertation The Promise of Payday: Exploring the role of state cash transfers in post-apartheid rural South Africa in March 2020 at the Department of Urban and Rural Development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Stefan’s primary research interests concern social security systems and their policies, gender equality, economic and social rights, and theories of distributive justice.