Johannesburg - Johannes Baloyi’s artificial leg is being held together with little bits of glue. The screws are rusting. His stump swells up because he doesn’t have the proper socks to protect it.
His condition has become so bad he has to walk with crutches.
But the SA Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) doctors have told Baloyi he is not disabled.
As a result he has not received a disability grant since 2011, and in January another application for a grant was rejected.
In another case,
Thabang Dlamini, 19, was born with one side of his body underdeveloped. He limps when he walks and is not able to hold things with one hand. But his grant has been refused.
Organisations claim Sassa classifies people in a way that excludes large numbers of those who desperately need the money.
One of their alleged methods of determining if a person is disabled is by throwing something on the floor: if the person can pick it up, they are regarded as not disabled.
A recent study by the Centre for Social Development in Africa found only 10 percent of South Africans with physical disabilities receive a grant.
One area of particular concern is disabilities that can’t be seen.
Charlene Sunkel, communications officer at the Central Gauteng Mental Health Society, said that even though many of their residents were under permanent psychiatric care, they were not deemed unwell enough to get grants.
“A person might be lucid, have a proper conversation… but if you place that person in the working environment, it is that stress that causes their disability.
“They relapse and Sassa doesn’t consider that.”
Sunkel said the combination of the high unemployment rate and the stigma against mental health sufferers meant that actually being the chosen candidate for a job was extremely hard.
“How do they expect that person to find a job under those circumstances in any case?”
Another problem was people were allowed to reapply for their grants only once they had lapsed, meaning there would be months when they would be without an income.
Kandas Kandwire, Epilepsy South Africa assistant director, said that there were many cases where their members needed disability grants, because their illness had effected their lives irrevocably.
He added that not every person with epilepsy should be eligible for a disability grant, but there were cases where epilepsy had prevented people from attending school or supporting themselves.
“How do you take your medication if your stomach is empty?” Kandwire asked.
He said the standards by which Sassa judged their members in assessing grant applicants often had nothing to do with whether they were sick or not.
“They just look at how you present yourself, how you have dressed. If you have dressed nicely they say you don’t qualify,” Kandwire said.
Kandwire said that if those with epilepsy did get grants, this would frequently be for only six months, then they would have to start the review process.
They were even seeing cases of people being granted only three-month-long grants.
Questions on Sassa’s processes were sent to the Department of Social Development, but no response was received.