Black Sash Media Statements

‘Black Sash launches court application over grant appeal delays’ - BLACK SASH, 7 April 2010

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Black Sash and 24 people from the Eastern Cape have launched a legal application against the government in an effort to help tens of thousands of people waiting to have their social grant appeals heard. According to the Department of Social Development’s own figures from 2009, 47 701 people across the country are trapped in a systemic appeals backlog in the office of its Minister, Edna Molewa, and at the tribunal she appointed to hear the appeals of those who have had their grant applications rejected. 

Black Sash National Director, Marcella Naidoo, says many of the 24 applicants suffer from a disability and have waited 18 months or more to hear the outcome of their appeal. “We joined as an applicant because most of the appeals have been submitted by vulnerable and marginalised people who can’t easily access the legal help they need to enforce their right to administrative justice. Taking the government to court is not something we chose to do lightly. It follows more than a year of persistent attempts to persuade the Minister and her officials in the Social Development Department to clear the huge appeals backlog and deal with the excessive delays. We believe we have been left with little choice but to seek justice for these victims through the courts,” insists Naidoo.

Legal Resources Centre Regional Director, Sarah Sephton, who is acting on behalf of the Black Sash and its co-applicants, says two of their clients in Grahamstown died while waiting to hear the outcome of their appeals. “Florence Tuck and Josephine Roberts died in abject poverty while waiting for their appeals to be processed. Tuck, who suffered from secondary heart failure and grade 3 Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease, was told her disability was controllable with medication and she did not qualify for a grant. She appealed the decision in March 2009 but died late last year. This legal application is an attempt to move government to a point where an appropriate budget is set aside to efficiently and effectively deal with the appeals backlog,” says Sephton.

The Black Sash and the other 24 applicants have asked the court to declare the Department of Social Development in breach of the Social Assistance Act which provides for an appeals process.  Naidoo says the Black Sash believes a functioning appeals process is essential to realise our right to administrative justice which is guaranteed under Section 33 of our Constitution.  “We are therefore asking the court to order the government to clear the backlog within a period of three months and to provide us with details of how they intend to achieve this.  We are also looking for a speedy resolution of the cases of our 24 co-applicants and will ask the court to instruct the tribunal to deal with their matters within 14 days of the outcome of the case,” says Naidoo.

ENDS.

For interview requests, please contact:

Ratula Beukman

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cell: 072-174 3507

OR

Marcella Naidoo

Black Sash National Director

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Cell: 082-4621003

 OR

Nyembezi Nkosikhulule

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

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Cell: 082-429 4719

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Sarah Nicklin 
Black Sash Media Officer
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Cell: 073-150 9525