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CALS and Black Sash back in court to ensure social grant beneficiaries protected

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS will be in the Supreme Court of Appeal on 16 and 17 August to ensure social grant beneficiaries are protected from unauthorised and unlawful deductions

On Thursday 16 August 2018, the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear arguments by the Black Sash, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, and the Social Security Agency of South Africa to appeal a judgment of the High Court. The judgment concerns Regulations to the Social Assistance Act passed by the Minister of Social Development in 2016 which regulate deductions made from social grants.

The High Court judgment held that these regulations should not hinder deductions made from beneficiaries’ bank accounts and that social grant beneficiaries should not be restricted in how they choose to use their SASSA bank accounts held with Grindrod Bank. The judgment stems from four court cases brought simultaneously by private companies, including Net1 and its subsidiaries Moneyline, Manje Mobile and Smartlife, against SASSA and the Department of Social Development to challenge the regulations intended to halt deductions from social grants.

The companies argued that they should be entitled to have access to SASSA bank accounts and that grant beneficiaries should have the right to contract freely, allowing deductions and debit orders to continue being made from SASSA bank accounts into which social grant are paid.The Black Sash is appealing the judgment, seeking an order that the Minister of Social Development amend the regulations to protect grant beneficiaries from exploitative practices.

“For many years, we have been witness to the dire consequences of social grants servicing debt. These practices need to be stopped by effective regulations and oversight,” says Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, National Advocacy Manager at Black Sash.

More than 17 million South Africans depend on grants, many of whom are trapped in a cycle of debt.

Through its work and that of its partner organisations, the Black Sash receives thousands of complaints that corporate entities have unjustifiably depleted the social grants of beneficiaries. These are not isolated incidents, but endemic across South Africa, affecting millions of beneficiaries.

“It is our hope that the court will empower the State to properly protect social grants from exploitative practices. Social grant should not be used to service debt. The State has a constitutional obligation to protect social grants against exploitation,” concludes Abrahams-Fayker.

The matter will be heard on Thursday 16 August, starting from 09h00 in Court A at the Supreme Court of Appeal. Black Sash will also be mobilising members to demonstrate outside the court.

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