Black Sash says its gravely concerned that the conditions at some SASSA and Post office branches could further the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable communities. Yesterday, was the first social grant payment cycle since South Africa’s 21-day nationwide lockdown came into effect. Yesterday, the majority of grant beneficiaries were left without any protective measures while waiting for hours in long and congested queues.
Black Sash national manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker believes that grant recipients want to comply with the lockdown, but the current conditions makes this extremely challenging.
“We appreciate that some retailers and commercial banks made great effort to enforce the necessary protective measures such as social distancing and hygiene protocols. However, the majority of grant beneficiaries were left without the benefit of any protective measures while waiting for hours in very long and congested queues. News reports show that there was little to no government support at many retail outlets to assist with social distancing. Almost no provision was made for sanitizing, hygiene and toilet facilities,” she told VOC.
However, SASSA admitted to experiencing a “few glitches”. However, national spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi stated that pay points did their best.
Hundreds of people of all ages gathered at several checkpoints, despite President Cyril Ramaphosa making the call to dedicate the 30 and 31st of March to the elderly and disabled to collect their grants.
In Cape Town, the post office and Shoprite’s Athlone branch were examples of occurrences nationwide, where overcrowding and late arrival of monies were the most pressing issues.
Letsatsi however assured that all monied are secured.
“The money of every beneficiary is secured in their account and people can get their money any day which is convenient to them. People might have thought that if they don’t get their money on the 30th and 31st they’re not going to get their money,” he said.
He said in spite of the two days being designated to the elderly and disabled, there were still those who had collected child support
“We are encouraging people not to flock to our pay points. We found people trying to be opportunistic and they’re putting the lives of old people at risk (sic).
Letsatsi expressed disappointment that those other than the elderly and disabled had collected their grants and called on the public to honour the more vulnerable in society.
“It is uncalled for, but we are calling on the co-operation of all South Africans- respect the elderly. Respect persons with disabled. We pay the grant on the first of every month. We do not understand young people who do not respect old people, who would want to push in ques (etc).”
“They’re making life difficult! We can only appeal to them and rely on their conscious,” he said.
He added that those other than the elderly and disabled will be turned away.
“Unfortunately, if you are found in the que and you’re going to collect money for a child support grant as an organisation we don’t have a choice but to turn you back because you’re not supposed to be there.
In terms of hyenine regulations, Letsatsi said that SASSA is doing its best.
“It is our responsibility to protect SASSA staff and beneficiaries. We have actually given our staff member the protective gear and we’ve instructed them that when beneficiaries come into our officers their hands are being sanitized and so on,” he said.
He added that que management will get underway in order to maintain social distancing. Although it is more difficult inside, some stores have given beneficiaries that are waiting outside trolleys in order to maintain social distancing.
“We need to up the game and monitor it as far as possible.”
Letsatsi explained that details around the death of man is still being sought. At least two others are also reported to have passed away in Johannesburg and Soweto respectively. He expressed sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.
“We dispatched provincial team to investigate and possibly visit the family,” he said.
SASSA appealed to South Africans to obey the instructions of government and adhere to lockdown regulations.
“We want to appeal from the bottom of our hearts- this CoVID19 is a killer. Please wait for your turn, you will definitely get your money. We also want to say to old people, if you it’s not necessary for them to get their money yesterday and today, their money is secured, and they can get it any time.”