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How are Indigent Households Identified?

Free basic service is defined as the minimum amount of basic levels of services, provided on a day to day basis, sufficient to cover or cater for the basic needs of the poor households. Various sector departments have set minimum standards outlining basic amount of services or quantity to be supplied to the indigents with regards to water, energy, sanitation and refuse removal.

Who qualifies for FBS?

Only indigent households qualify for FBS and the programme is solely intended to assist them. Municipalities subject all applications to means tests to determine whether households applying meet the criteria set by their municipality to qualify for indigent status. There are different categories of subsidies as set out by the various indigent by-laws/policies of the municipalities. In some municipalities, households qualify for 100% subsidies while other qualify for less that 100% depending on the criteria set.

What is the Common criteria used by municipalities to identify indigents?

Municipalities have different dynamics and thus have a variety of methods to identify indigents. The following are the most commonly used methods:

  • Whether the applicant is a bonafide South African citizen, with valid identification document;
  • If applicant is not a SA citizen, do they have recognized refugee status, (proof to be provided);
  • Is the applicant residing in a dwelling (formal and informal), (fbs is provided for households);
  • Is the combined monthly household’s income below the income poverty thresholds as set by the municipal indigent by-law;
  • Applicant to submit proof that they cannot afford to pay (UIF card, bank statements, proof of income, letter from employer confirming salary or wages);


  1. Child-headed households and households without access to FBS infrastructure are always regarded as indigents.

Where to register?

One again, different municipalities have various established municipal offices closer and further away from areas where indigent people stay. It is the responsibility of individual households to visit municipal offices to complete and lodge applications for subsidy/consideration.

What documentation is required when applying for indigent status?

The following documentation will be required in order to apply and process the application forms: Identity documents, Birth certificates, proof of residence, proof of income, letter of recommendation from recognized local structures or leaders, latest municipal accounts, sworn statements/affidavits or declaration from applicant, etc. And all such documents must be certified.