SASSA strategy to avoid long queues fails

Shoppers and social grant beneficiaries queue outside Gugulethu Square on Monday. All photos by Lilita Gcwabe

The strategy by SASSA to stagger payments of social grants fails as elderly and disabled people and shoppers stand in long queues in poor communities around Cape Town.

Despite the strategy by the Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu to have the social grants staggered over four days to ease congestion at shopping malls at month-end, snaking queues of grant beneficiaries and shoppers not observing social distancing were the order of the day in poor communities on Monday. According to a statement by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) the social grants are going to be paid out over five days, starting with the elderly and people with disabilities on the 30th and 31st of March.

69-year-old Gugulethu resident and social grant beneficiary, Noluthando Mazwi, said she started queuing at 05:00 in the morning: “I had to come early to monitor the process as a community activist and a member of the health committee at Gugulethu Day Hospital. Even though the minister said that there would be people from the National Development Agency to make sure that the elderly people are made a priority, that did not happen.” She had to appeal to a security guard to allow a disabled person in a wheelchair who was in distress go to the front of the queue.

The strategies to lessen congestion at SASSA paypoints, Mazwi says, were futile with the elderly and the disabled queuing with young people going to buy groceries inside the mall. Queues are the norm on social grant days, because most elderly people prefer cash to using the SASSA cards as a debit card. But with the lockdown, there are more queues and more congestion.

According to Black Sash, the strategy by the minister is thin on details and low on protection.

Reacting to the Minister of Social Development’s plan to spread the payment of social grants over five days, Black Sash, an NGO that has done extensive research on social grants, says that there are few people who use the Post Office or the paypoints as most people use ATMs or draw their social grant money from retailers. “Only 5% of grant beneficiaries currently make use of pay points and SAPO branches. Located outside of the Minister’s scope is approximately 95% of the 12 million grant recipients who collect their grants at ATMs (61%) and retailers (34%),” reads the statement.

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Black Sash calls the Minister’s strategy “thin on details and low on protection”.

To allow for SASSA grant payments, the Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, extended the hours for public transport.

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