26 May 2020
Boniswa Tasana was among dozens of South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries who braved the cold and wet weather to queue outside the agency’s offices in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on Monday.
“SASSA should make plans on how to deal with huge numbers that are visiting their branches because we can’t carry on like this. At some point we will get sick,” said Tasana. She had arrived at the offices early to query the payment of her children’s grants last month.
“We depend on that money. I have been borrowing money with the hope that I will pay them back as soon as I get my kid’s money, but it seems that won’t happen anytime soon.”
To maintain social distancing inside the offices, officials only assist about 60 people per day. The rest were told to go home and return on another day. “There are no guarantees that you will get help even if you are amongst the 60 recipients they take inside. We are freezing, but yet we won’t get what we came here to do,” said Tasana.
SASSA Western Cape spokesperson Shivani Wahab said the President’s announcement on Sunday brought much-needed hope to the country, especially the most vulnerable. “It enables SASSA to accelerate the pace of paying out Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grants.”
Wahab said that the agency was currently operating with a third of its staff. The phasing in of level 3 from 1 June would increase its capacity drastically so that payments could be made much quicker, she said.
Nomalungisa Sigene, who lives with a disability, was at the offices to request that her grant be paid into her bank account, but she was not helped. “They didn’t even listen to what I had to say. I was just told to come back tomorrow. All I needed was a form to take to the bank but they just said I must come back tomorrow,” said Sigene.
According to Wahab, unbanked applicants will still be allowed to access their grants at any ATM. “SASSA will finalise contracting for this facility with the banks [on Monday] so that payments can be made this week. Beneficiaries can also open accounts at their nearest post office,” she said.
Khayakazi Vamela said she had tried to apply for the Social Relief of Distress Grant via WhatsApp but to no avail.
In response, Wahab said that SASSA had stopped using using its WhatsApp line “after the system was flooded with an unprecedented number of applications per hour”. She said SASSA struggled to cope because applicants were also attempting to upload supporting documents on the system. The WhatsApp application had since been restored and “the application process is significantly smoother”.
Wahab said SASSA was only accepting online applications for the special R350 a month Covid-19 Grant via its USSD line (SMS) *134*7737# or email SRD@sassa.gov.za. The grant is expected to be available to those who qualify until October.
People visiting SASSA offices are reminded that most local offices have scheduled days which are reserved for specific applicants. Mondays and Tuesdays are usually for old age applicants, Wednesdays and Thursday for child support and foster care grants, and Fridays for other administrative queries.
This article has been amended to say that SASSA’s WhatsApp application system has now been restored, which was not clear from the information we were initially given.