Social Security Provision for Lone Mothers in South Africa: Independence, Dependency and Dignity
Phakama Ntshongwana (Nelson Mandela University)

This paper provides an insight into the lives of black African low-income lone mothers and their attitudes about the challenges they face relating to employment, social security and child care.  Focus group material is used in order to explore the paper’s overarching theme, researching:  To what extent does social security provision for lone mothers encourage dependency and erode dignity, or promote independence and enhance dignity? Though the findings are not of themselves nationally representative as they were drawn from focus group material in the main, they, nevertheless, contribute to a more rigorous understanding of the issues low-income lone mothers confront in present day South Africa. I demonstrate that poverty erodes lone mothers’ sense of dignity as does their experiences of being unable to properly provide for their children.  I also demonstrate that lone mothers are attached to the labour market in that they aspire to be in work and that there is no evidence of a dependency culture in the way that it is referred to by policy makers who caution against a more comprehensive social security system.  I conduct some analysis using a South African Microsimulation Model (SAMOD) that shows that if one were to introduce a Lone Parent Grant it would reduce poverty. While there is evidently a great need for jobs there is also a need for South African policy makers to address the question of how to support lone mothers’ unpaid labour which goes unrecognised.