Phakamile Ranelo v. South African Social Security Agency [2009] ZAECMHC 7

A complaint was filed before the Eastern Cape High Court by Phakamile Ranelo alleging the unlawful termination of his disability grant. This case addressed a range of issues including, the requirement of notice as to approval of one's disability grant and its nature, and the principle of reasonable expectation.

Date of the Ruling: 
Jun 4 2009
High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape High Court: Mthatha
Type of Forum: 

The applicant Phakamile Ranelo brought a complaint before the Eastern Cape High Court against the South African Social Security Agency alleging that the State had unlawfully terminated his disability grant. South African regulations oblige the Social Security Agency to have informed Ranelo, in writing, of his approval for a disability grant, its temporary nature, and his right to appeal its temporary status. Ranelo argued he received no such prior notice, so his belief in his grant’s permanent nature was valid. He stated he only received a letter notifying him of the grant’s termination one month before it ended in June 2008.

The High Court found that Ranelo’s belief that he received a permanent grant was reasonable in light of the lack of sufficient notice.   Though the Social Security Agency stated it sent an earlier letter providing the required notice, there was no evidence Ranelo actually received it. The temporary nature of Ranelo’s previous disability grants also did not make his expectation of the current grant’s permanent nature unreasonable. The court also made the point that the issue at hand in this case was receipt of appropriate notice. Because of this, it rejected South Africa’s argument that Mr. Ranelo needed to offer proof of the permanent nature of his disability. Such evidence would be necessary on an appeal disputing the temporary nature of the grant, not its unlawful termination. However, Ranelo’s lack of written notice regarding his grant’s nature deprived him of this ability to appeal. In sum, the court found the lack of proof of prior notice sufficient grounds on which to find the grant’s termination invalid.

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

The court declared that the termination of payment on the disability grant was invalid. It required the South African Social Security Agency to reinstate the applicant’s disability grant within four weeks from the date of the order granted. This reinstatement had to include necessary back payments.

Significance of the Case: 

The decision reinforced the requirement of notice within the context of South Africa’s social security system. First, it established that providing required notice regarding a disability grant entailed demonstrating actual receipt of a letter or other written notice. Second, the case showed that it is not necessary to present evidence as to the nature of a party’s disability whenever a disability grant is at issue. The degree of disability would only be an issue in an action disputing the temporary nature of the grant.

(Updated August 2015)