On Friday 30 October 2020, the Black Sash Trust, assisted by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies brought an urgent application to the Pretoria High Court against SASSA and the Ministers of Social Development and Finance for the discontinuation of the top-up grants.
“We argue that the Caregiver Grant is a vital measure needed to assist the most vulnerable people in our country through an unprecedented period of distress to access basic needs like food and shelter. In fact, the additional amount is closely linked to the current state of disaster and cannot come to an end until the disaster itself does, or until the effects of the disaster on our society have been addressed,” said attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies Ariella Scher.
Covid-19 is still very prevalent in South Africa, with infections and deaths still steadily rising, thus the State of Disaster remains firmly in place.
National director of the Black Sash Trust Lynette Maart argued that there was no empowering mechanism authorising SASSA to terminate the top-up grant linked to the State of Disaster, which makes the decision unlawful.
Maart said that the matter was very urgent because if the court did not rule on it promptly then millions of poor South Africans would suffer.
“Over seven million beneficiaries of the Caregiver Grant, of which 98% are women, will be denied relief from the social and economic hardship and suffering brought on by the pandemic – all while the state of disaster remains firmly in place,” said National Director of the Black Sash Trust Lynette Maart.
Counsel for the government, in particular the Minister of Finance, had called for the matter to be struck from the roll as it was not deemed urgent.
Acting for the minister, advocate Jeremy Gauntlet SC argued that if the government were obliged to extend the R500 special grant for a further three months, it would cost R10.8 billion.
The trust wanted to interdict the government from stopping the grant pending a later application to review and set aside the decision not to extend it.
Gauteng High Court Judge Nana Makhubele found that the application did not meet the directives relating to urgency.
SASSA said they would not extend the grant beyond the end of October.
However Ariella Scher, attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies said:
“We believe the government is fully aware that these difficulties have not come to an end, given that payment of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant has been extended,”
The director- general of National Treasury, Executendo Mogajane argued:
“Compelling fiscal reasons justify the limited period during which ‘top-up monies’ were added to existing child-care grants under hard lockdown circumstances which do not apply any more,”
He said in a year of financial crisis for the government, the demands made by the trust would have grave financial implications for the public purse, and suggested that the judiciary should be called to intervene when it came to public finances.
Mogajane said nothing would change between now and November 6, when the payments were usually made, to make the hearing urgent.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé