Tuesday 28 May

9 May 2024, Johannesburg – For the past few weeks, SECTION27 has been engaging with the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD) on behalf of several non-profit organisations (NPOs) that offer welfare services to vulnerable people. These NPOs – House Otto Self-help Centre for Quadriplegics, Impumelelo Self-help Centre, Remme-los Residential Care and Independent Living, Epilepsy SA, Vaal Mental Health, Central Gauteng Mental Health Society, North Gauteng Mental Health, and West Rand Association for People with Disabilities – are at risk of imminent closure. This is because, despite the GDSD confirming that the NPOs are eligible for subsidies, they have not yet been paid.  

The closure of these NPOs risks leading to the extreme deterioration, if not death, of the beneficiaries they serve. These organisations are not the only ones suffering from the GDSD’s self-constructed disaster. We fear that, after several organisations having already closed, there will be another human rights disaster in the province in which vulnerable persons will be left without proper care services, similar to what occurred in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. We also fear that the recent departure of the Head of Department (HOD), Matilda Gasela, due to the expiry of her contract and following severe corruption allegations over several years, will result in more delays and dysfunction. 

The NPOs we represent provide essential services including residential facilities for persons with mental disabilities, mental health disorders, paraplegia and quadriplegia. Many of the organisations provide services such as community outreach, counselling, psychiatric evaluation, and protective workshops that are crucial for the safety and development of persons with disabilities. These organisations save people’s lives and the GDSD relies on them to fulfil part of their constitutional obligations to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable amongst us.  

However, as has been widely reported, because of a new process implemented by the GDSD in 2023 to select NPOs to fund, the process of informing NPOs of whether their annual funding applications have been successful and sending out service level agreements (SLAs) has been delayed this year. This has resulted in the payment of funds being delayed, causing another NPO funding crisis in the province.  

After a meeting held between SECTION27, our clients, and officials in the GDSD on 5 April 2024, our clients have been receiving their SLAs, although not for many of the essential programmes they offer, and some of the SLAs received have issues. The SLAs without issues have been signed and returned to the GDSD. However, payment has still not been made to these organisations, despite us making it clear to the GDSD, from the beginning, that they were on the brink of closure and that there is no plan regarding where the extremely vulnerable beneficiaries of the NPOs would go if they closed.   

Now, the worst is occurring – some of our clients have begun to close down operations. Most of our clients have been unable to pay staff for April. Continued non-payment will likely result in the mass resignation or retrenchment of staff. Many organisations have also been unable to pay municipal bills and could have utilities cut off at any moment. Food is either on the brink of running out or has run out entirely. This situation was completely predictable and would have been avoided had the lives and safety of the beneficiaries of these programmes been prioritised.  

The departure of the HOD in the midst of the NPO funding crisis is indicative of the dysfunction of the GDSD. The disruption caused by this could result in more delays in the payment of compliant, non-corrupt NPOs who only seek to serve those most vulnerable. These are delays NPOs cannot afford, and lives are at stake should they close. 

We have therefore sent a letter calling on the Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, and the Member of the Executive Council of the GDSD, Mbali Hlophe, to address the dysfunction in the GDSD that has caused this crisis and prevent the mass violation of beneficiaries’ rights. The GDSD must make payment to all those NPOs who have signed their SLAs. The GDSD must also imminently finish sending out SLAs and afford NPOs who have been denied funding for certain programmes an opportunity to appeal those decisions. 

For media queries contact:

Gillian Pillay | pillay@section27.org.za | 082 772 0052


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