Thousands of desperate state grant beneficiaries have been queueing at Sassa offices across the Western Cape following the lapsing of 53 000 disability grants at the beginning of the year.
The social grants lapsed in December, but the cabinet last week decided to extend the payment by two months to help support the needy against the economic hardship of the national lockdown.
This week, videos and pictures started circulating of hundreds of people outside Sassa offices in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Eerste River, among others.
Some mense have taken to sleeping outside the offices overnight to ensure they are helped the next day.
Concerns have been raised that the snaking queues could be super-spreader conditions for Covid-19.
Thabo Jubuse, 56, from Mfuleni, who was one of the lucky ones to be assisted, says his disability grant gets cancelled every three months and he has to reapply.
“Every three months I am subjected to this and this time is harder because a lot of people have the same issue as mine,” he says.
“I was given a date of 23 February 2021 to return with my bank statement.”
Law Enforcement officers had to intervene in Eerste River when chaos erupted as people pushed to get inside the building.
Spokesman Wayne Dyason said: “The City’s Law Enforcement Department confirms that officers visited the said address as part of a routine patrol.”
A teary-eyed Patricia Olivier, who was turned away on Tuesday, said Sassa needs to put effective systems in place.
“They lost my documents, I was here yesterday and gave in my clinic card and other documents. Today they say they cannot find them and I do not know what I must do.
“I spent the whole day here and these people are not helpful.”
The chaos at Sassa prompted MEC of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, to call a meeting with Sassa CEO, Totsie Memela Khambula, and the Manager for the Sassa Cape Regions, Bandile Maqetuka.
Fernandez says she wants them to explain their plans to deal with the temporary disability grant and care dependency grant backlogs, that have been extended to 31 March.
“Sassa has agreed to meet with our department on Friday, 15 January 2021, to discuss alternative solutions to address the challenges we are witnessing on the ground,” she says.
“I have also requested that Sassa clarify their contingency plan to manage the termination of the special Covid-19 grant at the end this month, given that the Covid disaster continues to impact on the livelihoods of our citizens.”
Sassa spokesperson Shivani Wahab says all clients whose permanent and temporary disability grants lapsed in December 2020 were informed by Sassa that they would have to access the nearest branch to re-apply.
“The high number of lapsed disability grants has caused an influx of clients at all Sassa contact points. To mitigate this, Sassa will provide every applicant with an appointment to finalise their application.”
She says Sassa has also deployed volunteers to assist with queue management.