In Statistics South Africa's newest non-financial census of municipalities it was found that more than 22% of SA's households are poor.
In 2001, the country adopted a policy that gives free, or subsidised, basic services to indigent households. In 2017, across the country's 257 municipalities, 3.51 million households were classified poor or needy.
Briefly.co.za learned that to be granted indigent status, a household must register with municipalities, who then check their application first before granting them this status.
But, Stats SA pointed out that indigent status is not a lifelong status.
The organisation said on Friday that a family's economic status can change and improve over time.
In an effort to make sure only the poorest families are cared for, municipalities require regular reapplications for indigent status. This can happen as often as once a year, Stats SA revealed.
According to a report by TimesLIVE, half of these indigent homes were located in six municipalities.
In eThekwini, around 627 000 household are classified as indigent. In numbers, that's almost 1 in every 5 households.
With 730 000 indigent households, the Eastern Cape tops the list. 44% of households in this province are indigent.
While municipalities decide their own criteria on how much they can subsidise a household with, it's mostly determined by the amount of resources a given municipality has at its disposal.
Stats SA said:
“In 2017, most municipalities (147 out of 257) classified an indigent household as a family earning a combined income of less than R3,200 per month. Eleven municipalities (nine local municipalities and two district municipalities) adopted a lower income poverty threshold of R1,600 per household per month."
As a general rule, those households that are classified indigent receive 6 kilolitres of free water per home, per month, as well as 50 kWh free electricity.
Statistics SA said the indigent programme is an important lifeline for the 22% of households in the country that would, without this programme, not have access to basic services.
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