Social Justice Partners Respond

The Social Justice Initiative advocates and mobilises resources for a large network of civil society and community-based organizations, working to create a more just and fairer South Africa.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

During the last few weeks since the impact of COVID-19 hit, social justice organisations have set up remote operations and using hotlines and whatsapp to continue to stay connected and continue to provide support to communities. 

The core focus of their interventions are: 1) enabling communities deal with emerging human rights violations during the crisis and ensure they can access justice; 

2) address gender based violence and offer psychosocial services in communities; 3) enable food security; 4) and monitor the delivery services. 

SJI, along with its partners, are active participants of the C19 People’s Coalition, a network of over 200 civil society groups, working to respond efficiently and effectively to the COVID-19 crisis in South Africa.


Covid-19 has exposed inequalities and the level of poverty affecting most South Africans. It is impossible for many who live in informal settlements and townships to adhere to social distancing and self-isolate under the conditions in which they live. The Government has tasked the police and the military to enforce the lockdown and social distancing in townships and informal settlements.

Human rights and legal advocates are working to provide access to justice and monitor human rights abuses. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), and Legal Resource Centre (LRC) are part of the Legal Support Working Group of the C19 People’s Coalition, which are actively monitoring the legal situation for vulnerable communities including the forced movement and evictions in informal settlements; the plight of homeless; women living in shelters, and those in prison. 

Responses include:

  • Providing access to justice during this period, they have established a legal hotline so anyone who has experience or witnessed human rights violations can reach out for help. 
  • Better informing the public of their rights, a set of fact sheets “Know Your Rights” focused on the rights of essential service workers, on asylum and refugees and on policy and military accountability have been developed and shared on social media.
  • Litigating to ensure human rights enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are protected. They also continue to advocate to the Parliamentary Committees, especially those that exercises oversight over the police and health and the military. 


With economic insecurity and poverty-related stresses and anxiety caused by the pandemic growing, and many living under lock down in cramped conditions, there are signs of increased mental health issues which could lead to the worsening of gender-based violence and family breakdown. Many community organizations are identifying ways they can provide support to victims of violence and provide psychosocial counselling.

Responses include:

  • The Rape Crisis Centre, which is committed towards working for women’s rights, has set up a 24 hour hotline for victims to report cases and get the help they need. They are working to make sure women are aware of the services are available during the lockdown, especially to make sure they know where to go for emergency medical care, which is essential in the first 72 hours after a rape and how to help it reported to the police.


Many people in townships and informal settlements, live in small overcrowded conditions with no room to move about and also limited or no access to water, sanitation facilities and food. Many of our partners are working to provide practical support with the distribution and ensuring fair access to food.

Responses include:

  • Other organizations, like the Black Sash are working to make sure families can access their social security and social protection grants by providing support to a national helpline, monitoring the situation in communities and working with SASSA, to respond to delays or problems.
  • In the Western Cape, Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), who support many grassroots community partners, is providing financial support and permits for  partners to distribute, food, soap and sanitizers to many of the poorest people in the community.


While the Government has announced social measures to counter the severe economic costs of COVID-19 and the impact of the lockdown on millions of South Africans, efforts to monitor and track service delivery and hold Government to account. This will require efforts strong independent media and public advocate organization to report, investigate and expose corruption and misappropriation.

Responses include:

  • To help equip and protect journalists reporting during the lock down, The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), who are committed to a free and independent media, is playing a vital role. They are providing support to journalists by obtaining the necessary documentation to allow them to go out on assignment safely during the “lockdown”.   They are working with the media to counter misinformation and disinformation and how to be responsible journalists during the pandemic. They have produced an electronic pamphlet including all critical information that journalists need to cover the pandemic and are monitoring of safety of journalists on the streets – and harassment by security services.
  • The International Budget Partnership (IBP) has a long history of reporting on basic service delivery informal settlements in the country’s largest cities to ensure that these settlements access basic services. During the lockdown, they are working with their network of grassroots organizations to monitor access to clean water and sanitation, and refuse removal in the informal settlements. To respond to COVID-19, they have developed a series of pamphlet on the virus in English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, and isiXhosa for communities and are working with them closely to report on service delivery and urgent social needs.
  • Successful advocacy campaign led by Amandla Mobi and other advocates, led to the Government agreeing to increase the child support grant by R300 in May and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month. They continue now to maintain pressure to make sure grant payments are not late and that they reach all that are entitled.

SJI Covid-19

Social Justice at the Heart of the COVID-19 Response.

The Impact

The fallout on Human Rights and Social Justice.