Sat, 11 Jul 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 kids' money, but it seems that won't happen anytime soon."

To maintain physical distancing inside the facility, 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 among 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 will increase its capacity drastically, so that payments are made much quicker, she said.

We also spoke to Nomalungisa Sigene, who lives with a disability. She 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 Grant via WhatsApp, but to no avail.

In response, Wahab said that Sassa was no longer 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.

Wahab said Sassa was only accepting online applications for the special R350 a month Covid-19 Relief Grant via its USSD line (SMS) *134*7737# or email SRD@sassa.gov.za.

The grant is expected to be available until October for those who qualify.

People visiting Sassa offices are reminded that most local offices have scheduled days reserved for specific applicants - Mondays and Tuesdays are usually for old age applicants, Wednesdays and Thursdays for child support and foster care grants, and Fridays for other administrative queries.

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