THOUSANDS of Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) holders and other asylum seekers are set to receive M350 grants over a six-month period from the South African government to cushion them from the effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
This follows an 18 June 2020 judgement by Pretoria High Court Judge Selby Baqwa ordering that special permit holders and asylum seekers be given the grants.
The grants were announced on 21 April 2020 by President Cyril Ramaphosa as a stop gap measure to assist those adversely impacted by the lockdown. They will be paid over a six month period.
Only South Africans, permanent residents and refugees were allowed to access the grants.
But in a case brought before him by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town – a non-governmental organisation advocating the rights of asylum seekers, migrants and refugees – Judge Baqwa ruled that it was unconstitutional for asylum seekers and special permit holders to be excluded from accessing the grants.
In her court papers, Scalabrini’s executive director, Marinda Madikane, had argued that asylum seekers and special permit holders had also been adversely affected by the economic shutdown aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 which had infected 106 108 people and caused 2102 deaths in South Africa by yesterday.
The South Africa government ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 27 leading to massive job losses, reduced earnings and pushing many families into hunger.
Only essential personnel were allowed to work as the country came to a virtual standstill.
Foreign nationals faced a Catch 22 situation as they could neither work nor leave the country because of the closure of the country’s borders.
Therefore, it made no sense that asylum seekers and those with special permits from Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Angola were excluded from the grants given to South African citizens, Ms Madikane argued.
“The centre had received around 1400 calls requesting food and financial assistance for rent and electricity over the first six weeks of the lockdown,” she said.
In his 18 June 2020 judgement, Justice Baqwa declared that directions issued by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu were unconstitutional and unlawful in as far as they excluded asylum seekers and special permit holders from accessing the grants.
Justice Baqwa gave the minister five days to quantify the costs of extending the grants to the asylum seekers and special permit holders and another five days to publish the amended regulations.
An estimated 400 000 Lesotho nationals are believed to be residing in South Africa although just over 100 000 of these are LSP holders.