Closure of SASSA office leaves Saldanha Bay beneficiaries in the lurch

Applicants for disability grants have to spend R100 on a taxi ride to Vredenburg and back

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

4 February 2021

SASSA offices in Saldanha Bay are closed.

The offices of the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) in Saldanha Bay on the West Coast have been closed since late March last year, forcing social grant applicants and beneficiaries to spend R100 on a taxi to Vredenburg, 25km away.

Community worker Yaseen Manuel from Diazville in Saldanha Bay says people knock on his door day and night asking for help contacting SASSA.

“People have to travel 25 to 30km to Vredenburg and then walk another 20 to 30 minutes after getting off the taxi to get to the SASSA local office there. A single taxi ride costs R50 then people come back saying they have not been helped at the office.”

According to Manuel, who gets a disability grant, SASSA was operating from a civic hall in 2019. When the hall burned down, a satellite office was opened, but when the Covid-19 lockdown started, the office was closed down.

“Most of the people who access grants here are people who want to do new applications and those who want to renew their disability grants. How is a person with a disability supposed to constantly travel to Vredenburg?”

“The people who want SASSA services are unemployed and do not have money for transport. People are hungry here. Children are hungry,” said Manuel.

SASSA provincial spokesperson Shivani Wahab said that with the “hard” lockdown last year all municipal venues and halls had been closed.

“In respect of a venue SASSA can operate from [in order] to service the Diazville community, SASSA has to adhere to government procurement processes to secure any additional venues for services.”

She said SASSA had contacted the municipality in November on the question of venues and was waiting for feedback.

But Saldanha Bay Municipality spokesperson, Ethne Lawrence, said the Diazville Hall in Saldanha had been made available to SASSA at its request.

Manuel said he had contacted the Black Sash for help, but the Black Sash’s paralegal officer Abigail Peters said there was not much that the organisation could do. “Unfortunately we can’t do anything about the venue, that is up to SASSA to negotiate.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, provincial Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez met SASSA’s regional branch management to follow up on progress dealing with the more than 52,000 temporary disability and care dependency grants across the Western Cape, which lapsed at the end of December last year. According to the provincial department of social development, as of 29 January, SASSA said only 4,088 of the 52,323 disability grants that have lapsed, had been assessed. And 48,235 applications had still not been assessed.