Johannesburg - A ruling by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday allowing social grant payment provider Net1 to continue deducting money from the bank accounts of grant beneficiaries was devastating, Black Sash's lawyers said.
"I think it has pretty much enabled companies to take deductions from social grants; it's given them free reign to do so, and that is quite devastating because of the impact that social grants have had on people's livelihoods but also because of the impact that deductions have had," said Nomonde Nyembe.
She said this would reduce the ability for the beneficiaries to enjoy their social grants.
Nyembe was speaking shortly after Acting Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen ordered that amendments to regulations governing the payment of social grants should not hinder deductions from the beneficiaries' bank accounts.
Nyembe said: "We have to sit around the table and decide what would be the best way forward. Our ultimate objective is to always ensure that the integrity of the social grants still remains intact."
The first three respondents - SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Thokozani Magwaza, Sassa, and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini - were ordered to pay costs.
The Black Sash said in a statement on Monday that the judgment involved four court cases between Net1 Applied Technologies (Pty) Ltd against Sassa, the social development department, and others.
In May 2016, the department published amended regulations to stop deductions.
Net1 and some of its subsidiaries argued that the regulations be declared invalid. It wanted deductions and debit orders to continue being made from social grant beneficiaries' bank accounts.
The four court cases were heard on October 17 and 18 2016.
The Black Sash, as an intervening party, argued that if the court ruled in Net1's favour, the social development minister must be given the opportunity to amend the regulations to protect grant beneficiaries from exploitative practices.
Western Cape spokesperson on community development, Lorraine Botha, said the ruling was "a huge blow to the poor which will further cripple the most vulnerable in our society".
Botha said: "I do hope this judgment is taken on appeal… I will invite [Cash Paymaster Services] and Net1 to come and brief the Western Cape Standing Committee on Community Development and explain how and when the reimbursements for airtime and electricity will be settled.
"The law is very clear that deductions made from the pension grant should not exceed 10% and can only be made for funeral cover."