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  • Author or Editor: Wanga Zembe-Mkabile x
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The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and across the globe posed special challenges and implications for low-income families with children. In this study we explored the experiences of primary caregivers of children receiving a South African social assistance programme, the Child Support Grant (CSG), during lockdown in Cape Town, South Africa, and sought to understand whether and to what extent the underlying logic of cash transfers such as the CSG speaks to the pitfalls of the social protection paradigm and the potential for moving closer to a transformative social policy approach.


We conducted 26 telephonic qualitative interviews with primary caregivers of recipients of South Africa’s CSG that were part of a longitudinal cohort study assessing the impact of the CSG on child nutritional status and food security.


Even though primary caregivers of the CSG and their children and households were already living in precarity before the pandemic, COVID-19, and particularly the hard lockdown, worsened their social, economic and living conditions, especially as regards hunger and food insecurity.


Low-income women bore the brunt of the pandemic in their roles as mothers, providers and homemakers. The pandemic has highlighted the inadequacies of the social protection paradigm that underlies the design of cash transfers such as the CSG, which has a narrowed focus on chronic poverty and vulnerability. It has also highlighted opportunities to shift to a transformative social policy framework that incorporates production, redistribution, social cohesion, adequacy and protection.

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This chapter reports the pilot work with the “Minimum Income Standards” (MIS) methodology in South Africa. It talks about the studies in South Africa that present some challenges relating to cultural factors, such as the different connotations of the term “minimum” and “decent standard of living.” It also describes the difficulties of bringing together people with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and languages for reference budget research in the “Rainbow Nation.” The chapter also emphasizes other ethical challenges involved in the study, such as bringing together very wealthy people and very poor people to discuss minimum standards in a highly unequal country context. It reviews important lessons taken from forward budget research in diverse settings where there are often major challenges to overcome.

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