The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has launched an investigation after a person apparently died due to a heart attack at a Sassa contact point.
Long and congested queues were witnessed outside various Sassa offices last week, when hundreds of temporary disability grant beneficiaries came to reapply for their grants which had lapsed last month.
Police and Law Enforcement were called by witnesses to assist with crowd control and compliance at the Gugulethu, Bellville and Eersterivier offices.
An outraged SAHRC head Chris Nissen condemned the use of a water cannon on beneficiaries outside the Bellville office on Friday, reports the Cape Times.
“Police could have handled the situation of enforcing social distancing much better.
“To open up a water cannon on disabled and vulnerable people, that is not right, even under the worst circumstances.”
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said: “Nobody would ever want to use water cannons just for the sake of it. The bottom line is that the situation was really getting out of hand and people were refusing to social distance and queue.”
Nissen said a meeting with Sassa regional executive manager Bandile Maqetuka was due to be held to discuss the situation.
He said he was looking into reports of a person who died, and alleged mistreatment of other grant applicants.
“The problem is that this is not the first time something like this happened.
“Last year, during the winter season, people were sleeping outside in Khayelitsha. We thought it was addressed, but we see it was not.”
He said if Sassa cannot come to an agreement with the local government to provide adequate facilities to allow for social distancing, then it must enter into talks with churches, as some have agreed to assist with church halls.