Stories from the Field

Black Sash joins 16 Days of Activism March

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CTRO16days2014alexa sedgewickBlack Sash, together with an estimated 2 500 other community members & organisations, marched to Parliament in November in support of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. Carrying placards and posters, the mass marched from Keizergracht Street to present to the ministerial delegation a memorandum calling for a National Strategic Plan to combat gender based violence in South Africa.

The march received support from organisations such as POWA, Sisonke, TAC, PASSOP, LRC, Social Justice Coalition, and SAFF, amongst others.

The message was clear: NO MORE EMPTY PROMISES. There are many policies and laws in place, but government needs to lay down structures in place to see them come to fruition.

Photo credit: Alexa Sedgewick

MAVC: Monitoring Service Delivery in Lavender Hill

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MAVC LHill 1114

 Black Sash partner, Women Hope 4 the Nation, has started monitoring Local Government in the City of Cape Town.

They are monitoring the Metropolitan Municipality until 17 November, as part of our Making all Voices Count (MAVC) project.

Monitoring local government is a new area of monitoring for us and we are happy to be piloting it with this remarkable group of women.

Read more about our MAVC activities across the country here.

MAVC: Monitoring Service Delivery in Mpumalanga

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MAVC MPU 1014Letter from the field from Thulane Ndhlovu

"The training of citizen monitors in Mpumalanga and our monitoring process are hindered by protests from civil servants in Kwa-Mhlanga (include Sassa officials). They are protesting against the Municipality for not providing them with water in this Government Complex, citing that
they can't use bathrooms, let alone water to drink, so they only open from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, then close offices to protest outside the Government Complex in the main entrance.

We've got permission to monitor, and the senior officials have no problem, but the situation here is worse than what I have imagined, so we came early, interviewing beneficiaries while they are busy, then when they close we continue for a while. It's not convincing enough that they say they are still going to continue this week, but I'm sure we will meet the deadline.

Even though the situation is bad here, but I managed to build a good relationship between us and the officials. They even asked us to help them with illegal deduction (from social grants) as they have no idea about what's going on.

I'm still convinced that I will reach the set target in time. Regarding our safety, I think it's safe inside as long we listen when they warn us to leave the premises."

The fact that officials themselves warned our monitors when to get out and when it was safe to proceed with monitoring shows that their grievance was against the Municipality, and not beneficiaries or our monitors.

Grant recipient's struggles to stop unlawful deductions from his disability grant

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HOOG Mr Kalam and Mrs Daniels

The impact of the shortfall of funds on disabled people through fraudulent deductions from their grants is particularly offensive and immoral due to the disproportionately high costs of seeking recourse, if they are able to do so at all.

The Black Sash was alerted to the challenges faced by one such, Mr. Kalam, (pictured) when a concerned community resident called in to Voice of the Cape Radio in August 2014. He is a blind person receiving a disability grant from the State through his SASSA Bank Card.

When Black Sash's Elroy Paulus visited him in September 2014 at the home of Ms Shahida Daniels, a friend and caregiver in Woodstock Cape Town, we learnt that an average amount of R200 per month had been deducted for airtime and electricity (that he had not authorised or requested)  from his disability grant over 2 months.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get clarity from visits to CPS and SASSA offices in Cape Town, he finally turned to the media to share his challenge. SASSA Western Cape was able to block the cell phone making the deductions from his account for alleged and false airtime and electricity claims.

A local organisation that pays a stipend for his transport costs were helpful - but that he he said that he sometimes "saved" the taxi fare to make ends meet, and walked home instead - this in an area that has significant traffic flow in an urbanised and industrial area of Cape Town.

KZN Regional Office engages at 4 MAVC monitoring sites

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KZN MAVC 1014The KZN Regional Office staff were privileged to visit our partners Folweni Community Resource Centre, Network Action Group (NAG), Philakithi Community Services, and Suid-Afrikaanse Vroue Federasie (SAVF) - clockwise in collage - from 6 - 8 October at their respective MAVC monitoring sites. These sites were Folweni Clinic, Umzinto SASSA Local Office, Q Clinic in Umlazi, and the Utrecht SASSA Local Office.

Driving over 1 200kms to visit the various sites in KZN, while exhausting, proved very rewarding as we visited the individual sites, met the relevant office Managers, watched the Monitors as they captured the necessary data and engaged with service users and officials to get a sense of what their perceptions about our Community-Based Monitoring project were.

The officials were very engaging and helpful and respected the work of the Monitors. Some service users were a bit sceptical but when the Project was explained to them and what the outcomes would be they were very willing to participate and have a share in improving service delivery at the respective sites.

The Community Based Partners have excelled in their commitment and passion to Make Human Rights Real, and are eager to see the outcome of their monitoring in the Reports which will be generated at the end of October 2014, and which will be shared with all partners, all sites and the service users of those sites.