South Africa to spend R700m on refugees

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A Pretoria High Court ruling compelling government to grant asylum-seekers the R350 Covid-19 relief payment, is expected to cost the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) R700 million.

High Court Judge Selby Baqwa, ruled this week that directions issued by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu were unconstitutional and unlawful for excluding some asylum-seekers and special permit holders from accessing the Sassa grant.

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SASSA COULD SPEND ANOTHER R700 MILLION PAYING R350 GRANTS

The government made it clear in a statement issued this weekend that asylum-seekers and special permit holders were already receiving the R350 Sassa grants.

The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, an NGO advocating for and assisting asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees, approached the court to force government to extend the Sassa grant to more asylum-seekers and special permit holders.

“It is important to first clarify that the judgment did not instruct the government to include refugees; they were already included,” Department of Social Development Spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said.

“The court order was about the inclusion of asylum-seekers and special permit holders from Zimbabwe, Angola and Lesotho.

“The department will have to amend to include the words ‘holders of special permits under the Special Angolan Dispensation, the Lesotho Exemption Permit Dispensation and the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Dispensation, and asylum-seekers whose section 22 permits/visas are valid or were valid on 15 March 2020’,” she said.

READ ALSO: south African government ordered to pay refugees R350 social grant

SISULU DIRECTIVES STILL IN FORCE

Oliphant further claimed that all directions issued by the Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Sisulu were still valid and in force, except for the exclusion of asylum-seekers and holders of special permits as ruled by the court.

The department spokesperson asserted thatthe judgment would put a strain on the DSD and Sassa as well as government as a whole, to the tune of hundreds of millions of Rand.

Sassa continue to report widespread fraud related to the R350 relief grant and will maintain strict standards in the distribution of these payments according to Oliphant.

“The cost estimate is around R700m. The order will increase the pool of eligible applicants who will still be subjected to the stringent qualifying criteria to access the Special Covid-19 SRD grant of R350,” she said.

Speaking to IOL , economist Mike Schussler said the ruling would place further pressure on South Africa’s strained tax base.

“With the pressure South Africa is under, it will increase the burden on the tax base.

“We are spending R9 billion extra a month on our Sassa grants, so adding this will add about 2% more on the payments.

“It’s not a very big percentage but it’s money we don’t have,” he said.

SASSA AWARE THE RULING IS UNPOPULAR

Sassa chief executive Totsie Memela said the agency was aware that the decisions had caused unhappiness among many citizens with opposition to the ruling coming from across the political spectrum.

Memela said the grant must be limited to those most deserving of the relief.

“We are aware that the initial batch of notifications did not provide the exact reason for the rejection and are doing everything possible to ensure that the notifications which go to applicants going forward are specific, to indicate exactly why the application failed.

“This will enable those affected to be able to understand the basis for the decision. Also, we are working on an appeals process where those who, after being informed of the reason for the decision, still feel that they qualify for the grant, can lodge an appeal,” Memela said.

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