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Caregivers dealt a heavy blow as court rejects urgent bid to extend special grant top-up

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Gauteng High Court Judge Nana Makhubele struck from the roll an application by the Black Sash Trust to continue with the payments while Covid-19 still ravages the country.

Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Pretoria – About 7 million beneficiaries of the special Covid-19 caregiver grant will from next week receive R500 less than they did during lockdown.

Gauteng High Court Judge Nana Makhubele on Friday struck from the roll an application by the Black Sash Trust to continue with the payments while Covid-19 still ravages the country.

On Friday, the number of Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape stood at 3 204 active infections, with a total of 115 989 confirmed cases and 108 428 recoveries. An additional six deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of Covid-19related deaths in the province to 4 357. National director of the Black Sash Trust Lynette Maart argued that more than 7 million beneficiaries of the caregiver grant, of which 98% are women, would

Compelling fiscal reasons justify the limited ‘top- up monies’ period be denied relief at a time of suffering brought on by the pandemic – while the State of Disaster remains firmly in place.

There was no empowering mechanism authorising the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to terminate the top-up grant linked to the State of Disaster, she said, making the decision unlawful. She said the matter was extremely urgent because if the court did not rule on it now, millions of poor South Africans would suffer.

While it is not clear how many receive the caregiver grant in the Western Cape, over a million people receive support from Sassa in the province.

The urgent application was brought by the Black Sash Trust, assisted by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, on the eve of the expiry of the special grant.

Counsel for the government, in particular the Minister of Finance, had called for the matter to be struck from the roll as it was not deemed urgent.

Acting for the minister, advocate Jeremy Gauntlet SC argued that were the government be obliged to extend the R500 special grant for a further three months, it would cost R10.8 billion.

The trust wanted to interdict the government from stopping the grant pending a later application to review and set aside the decision not to extend it.

Judge Makhubele found that the application did not meet the directives relating to urgency.

Sassa said the grant would not be paid beyond the end of October.

But the Black Sash Trust argued that the caregiver grant is a vital measure needed to assist the most vulnerable people during an unprecedented period of distress, and should not end before the national State of Disaster does or until the effects of the disaster on society have been addressed.

“We believe the government is fully aware that these difficulties have not come to an end, given that payment of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant has been extended,” it said.

That grant, of R350, is paid to those who have no source of income and receive no other grants.

The director- general of National Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, in his opposing papers of more than 130 pages, said it was simply not fiscally possible to extend the special grant to recipients who were already receiving grants.

He said in a year of financial crisis for the government, the demands made by the trust would have grave financial implications for the public purse, and suggested that the judiciary should be called to intervene when it came to public finances.

From the start, it was known the additional amount was a special temporary dispensation that would be ending in October.

“Compelling fiscal reasons justify the limited period during which ‘top-up monies’ were added to existing child-care grants under hard lockdown circumstances which do not apply any more,” Mogajane said.

He said nothing would change between now and November 6, when the payments were usually made, to make the hearing urgent.

Pretoria News