It’s a sunny day and very hot at Plaza in Acornhoek. Old people and young mothers are grouped in a line-up to get the child grant in the small window of A1 Fishering. The stereo system in front of the store is playing loudly. At the end of every month at the pay points at A1, Cash and Carry and Nizams shop at Acornhoek plaza, there are usually more than a hundred women between the ages of 18-34 waiting in line to receive grants.
Every mother who is unemployed or earns less than R1000.00 can register for child grants. To register one needs to have the copies of both parents’ IDs, the baby’s birth certificate, the child’s hospital card and the affidavit from the police station. A person must go to the office of Home Affairs or Local Tribal Authorities to register. The number of children getting the child grants is increasing every year. In April 2001 3.5 million South Africans received the grants. The government registered an additional 1.2 million children between the ages of 11 and 14 for child support grants in the 2005/06 financial years. 75% of poor children below 7 years of age do not get support grants and currently about 60% of all the poor, or 11 million people, are uncovered.
There are some people who think child grants motivate most of the young girls to have babies. Gally Sakaone, a woman who is working and does not receive child grants, believes that more babies will be born as long as the child grants do not stop. According to Gally, most of the women who become pregnant want the money for themselves. “Women plan to have five children or more, so that they will earn more than a thousand rand,” she said. “Some women are not thinking like adults. The money received every month is not enough to support the babies, but some think the money is their monthly salary to support the whole family,” she continued. Gally believes that parents ignore the fact that when children reach 15 they will no longer receive grants, but the parents will still have to support them.
It seems as if Gally is not the only person who thinks that women give birth because they want the child grant. Mevis, a mother receiving child grants, is very concerned about some children whose parents gamble with the money instead of supporting their children. “Most women gather and gamble with the money. This is what is not right, and I think it should be stopped,” said Mevis. She thinks that it would be better if the government would create jobs with the money from grants. According to her, things would be better because “most people would be working instead of sitting at the bottle stores and at the gambling spots. And even the large numbers of teenagers would stop falling pregnant, because the aim is to get the R200.00,” Mevis said.
Oster, a fruit seller at the Plaza markets, agrees with Mevis that the child grants are the cause of teenage pregnancy because teenagers want the money. “The teenagers do not use the money for their children’s needs. They buy their own clothes and brag about it to their friends. I overheard two ladies getting child grants saying that they want to buy the jeans they saw at Jet store. I asked them, ‘what are you going to buy for your children,’ and one replied, ‘I only buy clothes for my baby in December.’ I was so surprised that I didn’t continue to ask them more questions,” Oster said. She added, “Some fathers are lazy and don’t want work. They force their wives to have more babies so that they can support the family with the money.” Oster said if she could estimate, 80% of people think of child grants as salaries, and 20% don’t.
Some people draw a budget to decide how to use the money. They never use the money for their personal use, the money is for the children and that will never change. Maria, a mother and pre-school owner, explains how she manages the money. Maria mentioned her budget and said, “Out of the R200, I take R120 for my son’s school transport and R80 to buy snacks for him to carry when he goes to school. I have children and I’m getting the grant but I don’t use the money for myself. It works for my children’s expenses. When I need some thing I use the money I earn at my pre-school,” said Maria. She said the government must stop giving grants for children and create jobs so that people can work and stop being the “baby makers of the world.”
Despite what some people say about the money causing more children, others see nothing problematic about teenage pregnancies. Mrs. Monareng, known as Ngwa Magubane, age 56, denies that grants cause pregnancies. She says people must give birth as often as they can, “The money must keep on coming so that the people can afford to support their children. These children will be future doctors, teachers, and lawyers of tomorrow. People are dying so more need to be born so that the numbers don’t drop,” said Monareng.
An 18-year-old girl from Moloro village, who was a student at Nkotobona High School, was expelled from school after becoming pregnant. “Even if the government could create jobs for everyone, I would choose to go back to school and finish my studies,” said the girl. When she was asked if the pregnancy was planned or if it was a mistake, she just looked down and didn’t respond.
Motlatso Mokooena, a 12-year-old girl whose mother is receiving the grants, is very proud of her mom because she gives her all the money. Motlatso explains “My mom does not use my money. She gives me the money all the time. I use it the way I like as long as I buy useful things.”
There are men who receive the grants, because God has taken their loved ones away from them. Lackson Molobela, a father of three girls who are receiving the grants, said Molobela. “I was ashamed at first when I had to stand in the line with women and receive the grants. I was supposed to get it because my wife passed away in November 2008 and I’m earning less than R1000 which is not enough to support my girls,” said Molobela. He said if he would find a well-paid job he would cancel the grants.