Government must be held to account as the unemployed are left destitute.

Cape Town, Monday July 31 2023: Black Sash supports the court challenge launched by the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) and #PayTheGrants, which challenges the exclusionary impact of the regulations that govern the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant.

The introduction of the SRD Grant acknowledged the plight the unemployed in South Africa by creating a buffer against hunger and starvation.

“The SRD Grant is not a handout or a burden, but a constitutional imperative which aids economic growth and is an investment in our collective future given its proven positive benefits. Research shows that income support leads to better nutritional and educational outcomes, social cohesion, job seeking behaviour and stimulates local economies. It encourages economic activity and helps to empower women who bear the burden of unpaid caregiving work and Gender-Based Violence,” says Rachel Bukasa, director of Black Sash.

However, the implementation of this grant remains flawed and fails to reach those for whom it was intended. This failure can be attributed to narrow regulatory provisions, fiscal constraints, and the poor design of the SRD Grant systems, that include:

  • Numerous administration and technical glitches.
  • Obstacles to applying for the grant through an exclusive online system.
  • A threshold that does not take cognisance of the South African context and cost of living.
  • A flawed eligibility criterion.
  • A defective verification process and;
  • A fundamentally weak recourse and appeal process.

Black Sash has consistently objected to and tried to highlight the challenges which ultimately impact grant beneficiaries’ ability to apply for and then access this grant. Despite regular engagements with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) where Black Sash persistently raised concerns and demonstrated the challenges government has failed to recognise or address these concerns.

Highlighting this in April 2022, the government, to reduce the budget for grants and without consultation, passed regulations which decreased the qualifying threshold for the SRD grant from R595 to R350. What this meant was that a beneficiary could not have more than R350 a month in their bank account (regardless of where this came from), otherwise they were considered “too rich” for the SRD grant and would be disqualified as a beneficiary.

Black Sash also had to turn to the courts in 2022, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), when it launched. This litigation raised various issues, including challenging the arbitrary and exclusionary nature of the qualifying requirements, and grounds of review, which resulted in some amendments to the regulations

Bukasa says that; “it is disheartening that civil society has to institute a legal challenge to compel government to fulfil its constitutional obligation to consider the regulations to ensure that the legal framework governing the administration of the SRD Grant to ensure that those, who are unemployed and desperate for a lifeline to survive while they look for work in a challenging context where jobs are scarce, will be provided with financial support.”

Further to this Bukasa stresses that the undignified and inadequate value of the SRD Grant, and its systemic flaws, must urgently be addressed to complement economic recovery through job creation. Which is why the Black Sash supports the legal action of its civil society partners.

“Black Sash, together with its partners will continue and intensify advocacy efforts to increase the value of the grant and address its administrative and design flaws, so that beneficiaries can access the grant in an efficient and dignified manner,” concludes Bukasa.


For further information:

To access to IEJ court papers and further details please click here.