Standing in the gap for the rights of the vulnerable in South Africa by calling on those in authority to be accountable

South African human rights organisation Black Sash has fought tirelessly against injustice and inequality in South Africa for more than 60 years. The organisation was started in 1955 by six middle-class white women who were profoundly aware of the injustices of apartheid. Black Sash members wore black sashes while they stood in silent protest or marched against the apartheid government – hence the name ‘Black Sash’.

The organisation has evolved over the years. Today, it is no longer membership based and it is completely non-racial. Despite these changes, Black Sash continues to work diligently for justice – nowadays it works towards the realisation of socio-economic rights, as outlined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, adopted in 1996. The focus is on social security and social protection for the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.

Recent successes and opportunities for support

The Black Sash, in the course of their work as non-government organisation (NGO), explore options to significantly reduce poverty and inequality. Recent successes include the following:

The Constitutional Court victory for Black Sash vs SA Social Security Agency (Sassa)

In 2017, the Constitutional Court granted Black Sash all its requests in its case against Sassa. In what has been called an important moment for civil society organisations fighting social injustice, the Black Sash victory ensured fairness in the suspension of the declaration of invalidity of the contract between Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services.

The court ordered Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services to continue paying social grants until another entity could be found to do so. The invalidity of the previous contract between Sassa and CPS would be suspended for 12 months.

“Of importance is to look at comprehensive social security systems for those who need it, and what these should look like in South Africa, and consciously make it a reality.”

– Evashnee Naidu, Regional Manager, Black Sash Trust, Durban Office

Pushing for the effective functioning of disability grants

Black Sash has also been assisting qualifying-yet-rejected applicants of disability grants. In some cases, such rejections led to applicants dying before accessing their right to an appeal as a result of flaws in the system. Black Sash and its partners influenced the change in the regulation and the Social Assistance Act of 2004 to introduce a ‘reconsideration process’. This process allows a beneficiary who had been previously rejected to launch an internal appeal process within 90 days. If the appeal fails, they are given another extension of 90 days to elevate their appeal to the Independent Appeals Tribunal. The new court-based system enables the public to hold SASSA accountable and a backlog of 16 000 unresolved disability grants were speedily addressed as a result of these changes.

Addressing the social security agenda as a whole

The organisation approaches social security in its holistic form, not just as social grants. Therefore, it also includes in its efforts compensation for injury through the Road Accident Fund, medical aids, pensions, nutrition, and primary healthcare, in order to ensure the best support of the poor and vulnerable by the State.

Funding and opportunities for support

The Black Sash has 26 staff members and operates on an annual budget of R12 million. The Social Justice Initiative (SJI) partnered with the Black Sash in April 2017 to run an email campaign, raising funds to ensure Black Sash’s sustainability. The campaign lasted two months and raised R620 000.

Play your part, to support Black Sash click here.

“While often overlooked, the needs of the poor and vulnerable still remain equally important to those of any other member of society.”

Evashnee Naidu, Regional Manager, Black Sash Trust, Durban Office


Author SJI

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