Gogos pay to queue for pensions

Social grant beneficiaries pay R10 to R20 to get a space outside the Pietermaritzburg post office

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Photo of people queueing
There are no chairs and a lack of toilets for the long queues of people at Pietermartizburg post office. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

Social grant beneficiaries in Pietermaritzburg have become the targets of extortion. They have to pay youngsters, known as “amaphara”, for a space in the queue outside the post office in Langalibalele Street. They pay R10 or R20 to be even closer to the front.

Honoratha Dlamini says it already costs her R200 to hire a car to get from Imbali Unit 13 to the post office to collect her pension (of about R1,700).

Dlamini said she was at the post office by 6am. “If you have no money to pay, you are last. You’d join the queue and a person would claim the space. These kids put bricks in the line. They would tell you that the space has been paid for. In that way we shift to the back. They don’t care,” she said.

Dlamini struggles to stand for a long time. There are no chairs and only two toilets. She said it was better when she collected her pension at a paypoint at the community hall. She said she doesn’t have “money for bribery”.

Dlamini said grant beneficiaries have reported the matter to the security guards, but nothing is done.

Spokesperson for the provincial post office Nobuhle Njapha said they were unaware of the scam and had not received any reports. She said there were ten security guards at the post office. “We are going to request an urgent meeting with the security company so that we make them aware of the situation. We request that the beneficiaries report such incidents to the security guard or any post office official on site as and when they get harassed,” she said.

Njapha urged beneficiaries to withdraw anytime of the month when there are no queues. “They can also have other options to withdraw at merchants as well as at ATMs,” said Njapha.

Thandi Nsele, who is 72 and also from Imbali, said, “There are times when these amaphara would want to carry our grocery for us. Once you agree that they assist you, they ask for money. Besides lining up the bricks they are dangerous. Amaphara are not the only ones who are making our life difficult. Due to the post office not having enough chairs, we pay for things to sit on.”

“Hiring a thing to sit on is R20. Some charge the price of R10 … There is a huge difference compared to the community hall … We had water, enough chairs and toilets. There was also a committee that took care of us. They were able to seat us and prioritize the elderly and those who are sick,” said Nsele.

One of the amaphara, Sibusiso Zondo, said, “We keep the space for them. The ones who pay, get a closer space in the queue. We have beneficiaries who now asked that we keep the space for them,” he said. He denied harassing or hurting the gogos.

A street vendor who sells snacks outside the post office said she has witnessed gogos peeing on the side of the road. “They should have more toilets. Some of them arrive as early as 4am. They would stand in the queue longer, if they haven’t paid. Those who pay are the ones who are served faster than others. It’s saddening but one cannot do anything about it,” she said.

TOPICS:  Social Grants

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