SASSA doors closed to social grant applicants in Khayelitsha

SASSA clients were made to queue close to each other outside the building as the office doesn't have adequate protective measures against the coronavirus. All Photos by Lilita Gcwabe

Measures to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus are blocking applicants for social grants.

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) office in Khayelitsha were making people wait outside for services the whole of Wednesday since President Ramaphosa announced on Sunday that gatherings of 100 people or more are no longer permitted. In his media address to the nation, the president declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Africa a national disaster. On Monday various government departments shared their plans on how they are going to deal with the pandemic.

The group of mostly elderly women outside SASSA told Elitsha that they were turned away on Monday and were told that the office could only take 100 people at a time and that SASSA staff did not have masks, gloves and hand sanitisers to ensure their safety.

51-year-old Faniswa Marado from Site B said that she arrived at 01:30 to make sure that she would be one of the 100 people allowed inside but at 11:30 she was still outside, lying down using her blanket as a mat. “I’m here to apply for a disability grant as I have diabetes and hypertension. I haven’t eaten the whole day and I’m hungry right now and my legs are sore and swollen,” said Marado. “I have heard about the coronavirus, that it spreads through touching or touching a surface that is contaminated,” she said.

Nomabali Dinga who was standing not far from Marado said she was also queuing to submit her application for a disability grant. “On Monday they told us that they are only taking 100 people and they do not have gloves to ensure our safety,” said the 42-year-old.

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Residents of Khayelitsha outside SASSA offices on Wednesday. They told Elitsha that they were turned away on Monday because the office could only take 100 clients.

25-year-old Nomveliso Ndlumbini, who is on crutches after she was hit by a car, was also wanting to apply for a disability grant. Ndlumbini complained about the bad treatment that they are getting from the Khayelitsha office. “On Monday they told us to come back today and promised that we would be attended to. They would not allow us inside because they did not have the safety gear to prevent the spread of coronavirus but they told us today we must come without even giving us cards to make sure that we will get help today,” she said.

Nomveliso Ndlumbini (25) was at SASSA offices to apply for a disability grant.

Boyce Mtubu (73) from Mitchells Plain said that he had come to SASSA for a letter to confirm that he is a pensioner because the City of Cape Town is threatening to disconnect the water at his four-room house in Eastridge. Mtubu must pay R2,856.41 otherwise the water to his property will be disconnected at the end of the month.

Noluntu Kwakwana from Makhaza was wanting to apply for a disability grant as she has asthma, arthritis and hypertension. “I arrived here at 04:00 and I have not been attended to. The last update was that they are still in a meeting,” said the 49-year-old.

According to media reports, scientists and health experts say that those with diabetes, hypertension and chronic respiratory diseases and the elderly are most at risk of COVID-19.

A notice hanging above the entrance at the SASSA offices in Khayelitsha

In a press statement dated 17 March, the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, said that that she has directed all service offices to remain operational and to adhere to occupational health and safety guidelines and to make sure that basic protective measures against the virus are provided.

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“There is no doubt that the spread of COVID-19 will exacerbate the vulnerability of poor households and that it is likely to increase the demand for social services in the form of social grants, social relief of distress, food relief and psychosocial services for affected individuals and families,” said Zulu.

According to the press release, one of the measures the department proposes is the “staggering of payment dates to avoid gatherings of large numbers of people at South African Post Offices.”

On Wednesday 18 March, South Africa had 116 positive cases compared to 62 cases two days ago.

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