This paper describes the findings of case studies-based research on how poor and marginalised people in post-apartheid migrant networks seek to ameliorate poverty and manage their vulnerability. It argues that the ways in which people make decisions regarding formal social grants and cash transfers, their utilisation and their indirect impacts need to be understood in the context of the pre-existing and underlying systems and practices of informal social protection (Bracking and Sachikonye, 2006). These informal strategies are shaped by two key phenomena (du Toit and Neves, 2008): complex, spatially extended, de-centred social networks; and deeply sedimented and culturally specific practices of reciprocal exchange. This paper shows how social grants are used in this context, and illustrates how cash transfers allow poor and vulnerable people to make ‘investments’ in human, physical and productive capital. The paper argues that a crucial aspect of the impact of cash transfers lies in the way they allow the leveraging of scarce resources within networks of reciprocal exchange. Social grants thus have an impact far beyond the particular groups targeted in official plans, often providing key resources for those who would otherwise be marginalised. At the same time, they have only limited utility in addressing the core dynamics that drive chronic poverty. Reducing structural poverty in South Africa requires measures that address the underlying problems of structural unemployment.
du Toit, A.; Neves, D. Trading on a Grant: Integrating Formal and Informal Social Protection in Post-Apartheid Migrant Networks. Brooks World Poverty Institute, Manchester, UK (2009) ISBN 978-1-906518-74-5