Economies of Alientation: Social grants

While the interventions to support businesses through this unpredictable time have received much attention in the media, less has been paid to the expansion of our established welfare systems to support individuals. Various civil society organisations are calling for a closer look at the appropriateness of basic-income grants, as well as the institution of a pregnancy grant and others. What is the state of the welfare system in SA and what does the pandemic teach us about preventative disaster management through the support of the on-going health of the public?

Neil Coleman is Co-Director of the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), a progressive economic policy think tank that was launched in September 2018, by a group of South African academics, activists and former government policy makers. The IEJ’s core objective is to provide policy makers and progressive social forces in South Africa with access to rigorous economic analysis, and well thought through policy options, to address the multiple socio-economic challenges confronting the country.

Neil worked for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) from 1989 to September 2017. From 1995-2007 he represented COSATU in the constitution making process, and in Parliament. He was involved in policy development work over much of this period, having co- ordinated a team which drafted over 250 submissions on policy and legislation to parliament and government departments between 1995 and 2007, and from 2008-2017 continued to work on various policy and strategy issues in his position as Strategies Coordinator of the COSATU Secretariat.

From May-December 2009, COSATU seconded Neil as Special Advisor to Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Economic Development. Neil represented COSATU in numerous fora, participating as a COSATU delegate in various social dialogue and national political structures, and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). He represented COSATU in several international fora, such as the International Labour Conference of the ILO, and the international council of the World Social Forum. His most recent role in COSATU involved giving strategic policy advice to COSATU, as well as coordinating various teams of experts for the federation, including working with the country’s top progressive economists. From 2015-2017 he led the Labour delegation (the 3 Federations in Nedlac) in negotiating South Africa’s first National Minimum Wage. This was implemented in January 2019.

Shireen Hassim is Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa. She is also Visiting Professor at WiSER, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has written and edited several books including No Shortcuts to Power: Women and Policymaking in Africa, and Go Home or Die Here: Violence, Xenophobia and the Politics of Difference in South Africa. Women’s Organisations and Democracy: Contesting Authority won the Victoria Shuck Award for Best Book in Women and Politics from the American Political Science Association. Her most recent book was an archival recuperation of the work of the South African sociologist, Fatima Meer. She is a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.