Jul 2017 2nd Edition

Free services for the poorest

Local government

Municipal policies help alleviate poverty by providing free basic services to people unable to support themselves. The poorest households – the unemployed, people living on grants and children – benefit from free water, electricity, sewage and sanitation services.

To access free basic services, child-headed and poor households have to register with their municipality. (Image: GCIS)To access these services, known as Expanded Social Packages, households have to register with their municipality. Child-headed households automatically qualify, and people receiving social grants will require a means test.

To register, you need to provide documents showing:

  • Monthly income of the household is not more than two state pensions.
  • You do not own any other property besides your residence.
  • You must be at least 18 years old and a South African citizen.

After submitting the documents, you will be visited by municipal employees and a social worker for an assessment.

Households are entitled to:

  • 6 000 litres of water per household of eight people per month
  • 50 kWh of electricity per month
  • Basic sanitation services

Municipalities have developed strategies to help households made up of the poorest of the poor – known as “indigent households” – rise out of poverty. In Tshwane, for example, this works in seven ways:

  • Skills, life skills and financial literacy training
  • Employment referral service
  • Strategic small business investments
  • Households on the Indigent Register have to commit to working on projects in their community
  • Airtime subsidies, communications conduits and SMS coaching
  • Intensifying the role of social workers
  • Rethinking procurement for household services to favour small-scale cooperatives and community-based entrepreneurs

This is a general list of documents you need to apply for a municipal Expanded Social Package Programme:

  • Certified copy of the applicant’s ID, as well as all dependants. For children, a birth certificate, school report or a letter from the school is acceptable.
  • Proof of income or an affidavit if unemployed.
  • The latest municipal account.
  • You will be required to sign a declaration allowing the municipality to share your information with other departments and provide fingerprints.
  • Benefits are dependent on which of the three poverty bands you fall into. Three is for the poorest, who may receive subsidies on water, electricity, rates sanitation, refuse, rent and travel.


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