Helping hands come to blows

Whose hands are these? They both care for and serve the poor but their ownership is disputed.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), a government body, and Dubai Cares, a humanitarian organisation in the United Arab Emirates, share nearly identical logos—and both claim rightful ownership of it.

The two organisations even launched the hands logo in the same year—2007. Sassa’s was in July and Dubai Cares launched the logo in September. Both logos show five hands, spread out evenly in the form of a circle in five colours.
The only apparent difference is that a black segment in the Sassa logo appears to be purple in the Dubai Cares brand.

Sassa, which administers the state’s social service grants, said its logo was “specific, original and distinctive to the organisation”. But Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said it was not unusual for different organisations to have similar logos.

“There are millions of logos depicting hands and with similar colours and palettes across multiple companies and organisations,” he said. Madoda Dhlamini Brand Management Process designed the Sassa logo and the company’s Madoda Dhlamini said he was certain that Dubai Cares started using the logo only after Sassa had done so.

No idea
So did the Dubai-based NGO copy Sassa’s logo? Dhlamini said he first presented the Sassa logo in August 2006, almost a year before it was launched.
Dubai Cares said it needed more time to respond to questions sent to it by the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.

Sassa said it had not known that another organisation might be using the same logo. “No official alerts have been sent to Sassa regarding the Dubai logo,” said Letsatsi.

But Dhlamini said: “Of course I’m aware that a similar logo is being used in Dubai.” But he denied suggestions that his company might have copied the logo from Dubai Cares. “Somebody went overseas and they bumped into this logo. They decided, ‘Why are we getting a raw deal?’ “What transpired was that our logo was done before this [Dubai Cares] logo,” said Dhlamini.

He said he then alerted Sassa. “Their [Sassa’s] take was more of an antagonistic scenario, not an inquiring or interested scenario. The fact that it was not attended to means that the individual concerned was not clued up or they just decided to let it slide because it has happened to many other companies before.”

The logo was registered only in South Africa and so the copyright applied only within our borders, Dhlamini said.

“When we designed this we asked if we could register this on the worldwide patent register. It would have meant that no one could use it anywhere in the world,” he said. Sassa refused to disclose how much it paid for the logo, citing the confidential relationship between client and service provider.

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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