The Black Sash Trust, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, this week made an urgent application to the Pretoria High Court. We sought to ensure that the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant for Caregivers would not end by October while the effects of the state of disaster are still being felt acutely by millions of women and their children. We argue that ending the Caregiver Grant is not only promoting food insecurity, but is discriminatory.
On Friday, 30 October, the Pretoria High Court heard an urgent application brought by the Black Sash Trust in an effort to promote the right to social security during the current state of disaster. We wanted to raise our pressing concerns about the harm and suffering that would be felt by beneficiaries of the Caregiver Grant if it were to end this month. The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Ministers of Finance and Social Development opposed the application. The judge directed that only the parties and their legal representatives may attend the virtual hearing.
After several hours of argument, the matter was struck from the urgent court roll. The Court recognised that the application was brought on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in our society and was in the public interest, and no order of costs was made. Yet, this leaves the millions of women and children who have relied on the Caregiver Grant since May vulnerable to food insecurity at a time of unprecedented hardship. It is also discriminatory given that payments of the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant have been extended until January next year.
“We are obviously disappointed in the outcome of today’s hearing,” says Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS. “It is particularly discouraging that in the week when the Caregiver Grant is being brought to an end, the Minister of Finance announced yet another bailout for South African Airways, this time for R10,5 billion. This amount would have been enough to keep paying grants for another three months.”
“The Caregiver Grant has been a critical lifeline during this unprecendented time of hardship and suffering,” says Lynette Maart, National Director of the Black Sash Trust. “By terminating the Caregiver Grant prematurely, government has failed to protect the people hardest hit by the current humanitarian and economic disaster.”
“We are also very concerned about the fact that this hearing was closed to the media and the public,” says Ariella Scher. “No reasons were provided for this decision, which goes against the principle of transparency. Virtual proceedings should make our courts more accessible, not less so.”