12 August 2020
Lonwabo Jantjies from ward 46 in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage spent the night outside the post office so he could be one of the first people in line to collect a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.
On Wednesday, he was among hundreds of unemployed people who spent most of the day waiting in a snaking queue to collect their R350 special grant.
“I arrived on Tuesday night at about 9pm. I was number 22 in the queue. We slept next to KwaNobuhle Mall and we jokingly nicknamed each other the Sotho Tribe as everyone was armed with a blanket,” he said.
At midday, Jantjies, 34, was still in line but further back in the queue than he had hoped. He was still wrapped in the blanket he used to keep himself warm during the night. He described how excited and relieved he was when he got an SMS instructing him to collect the special grant he had applied for in May. He previously relied on piecemeal jobs and working as a barber.
By 4pm the post office had closed and Jantjies had still not been helped. Scores of people still waited around, some preparing to stay the night again.
“I will have to sleep at the mall again tonight because the queue was too long. My girlfriend who is the mother of my two children is also unemployed. I am expecting a couple of hundred rand as I have seen others being paid. This grant will be a life changer,” he said.
Bukelwa Pezisa, 44, a mother of four, said she had not applied for any other grants. “I arrived here on Tuesday and they closed the door at 4:30pm. On Wednesday, I received R700 after applying in May for the grant,” she said.
SASSA spokeman in Eastern Cape Luzuko Qina said SASSA was using a new system to pay the R350 grants. “During payment processes, SASSA engaged several payment platforms, banks and the South African Post Office. Banks accepted our proposals for distribution of this grant and recently even included cash transfers commonly now done via cellular phones,” he said.
Qina said applicants who have bank accounts are asked to provide banking details when they first apply. “Very few of them had bank accounts. The Post Office agreed to help with those who do not have bank accounts.”
From 3 to 9 August, SASSA invited all recipients of the grant who wished to change their method of payment to do so, to relieve the pressure on the post office, he said.
“We would like to pay this grant in the most convenient way, however, we can only do that if they have platforms to do so. Some people have no cellphones and we can’t pay their grants to their friends or family members.” He said a booking system had been introduced to improve the situation at post offices.