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Civil society organisations takes government to court over SRD grant regulations

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the criteria were to deter those that were not the intended beneficiaries of the grant. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the criteria were to deter those that were not the intended beneficiaries of the grant. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.

Published Jun 24, 2022

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Cape Town - Litigation against the government has been launched by civil society organisations over the “unfair and exclusionary” Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant regulations.

The Black Sash, which is the main applicant, through the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, approached the high court, challenging the unconstitutional elements of the SRD regulations.

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The Minister of Social Development has been listed as the first respondent, followed by the Finance minister, Sassa, and the president as the fourth respondent.

Following the president's announcement that the Covid-19 SRD grant of R350 would be extended for a year from April 2022 to March 2023, the Department of Social Development introduced a regulatory framework for the payment of the Covid-19 SRD grant within the Social Assistance regulations.

This resulted in the introduction of a revised qualifying criterion which the organisations said deprived millions in need of social assistance.

However, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the criteria were to deter those that were not the intended beneficiaries of the grant.

The organisations want the high court to declare unlawful, review and set aside 2 (4), 2 (5), 3 (2) and 6 (c) of the regulations.

In their founding affidavit, the organisations argue that 2 (5) of the regulations reduced the income threshold to qualify for the Covid-19 SRD grant from R595 under the Disaster Management Regulations to R350 under the SA regulations.

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They also argue that section 2(4) unfairly prefers information gleaned by Sassa through a bank verification process over any other information when accessing an application.

They are also challenging the use of electronic platforms for application, saying these discriminated against those that qualified in other respects but don’t have access to electronic appliances.

Black Sash director Rachel Busaka said the arbitrary means test was depriving millions of people in need of government assistance and regressing the developments of the right to social assistance for hundreds of thousands who qualified for the grants previously.

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“Despite the promises to do so, the government is failing to engage with civil society to develop pathways for introducing a permanent Universal

Basic Income Grant from March 2023 next year, when the SRD grant is meant to end. This is a vital policy that is needed which will benefit the economy and lift millions out of poverty,” she said.

Busaka said there was no consultation with civil society on the regulations before they were introduced.

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Tlou Seopa from Amandla.mobi said they were hoping that the litigation would further help hold the Department and Sassa accountable for their lack of communication and how they administered the grant. Saftu and Cosatu have supported the litigation.

Sassa communications officer Omphemetse Molopyane said it was impossible at this stage to confirm the number of applications that have been rejected but previously qualified for the grant.

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