Inquiry into use of water cannons outside Bellville Sassa office
Cape Town - Police have confirmed that the use of water cannons to enforce physical distancing outside the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices in Bellville on Friday, is the subject of an internal inquiry.
Public Order Police were called out to the offices to assist with crowd management.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu was also present at the offices, for the last of her two-day visit.
Zulu visited several Sassa offices across the City, for assessment following the lapsing of thousands of temporary disability grants and care dependency grants.
Nearly 53 000 temporary disability grants lapsed in the Western Cape. Last year, grants that would have lapsed in February were extended, until December 31. A medical reassessment is now required for the renewal of grants. Thousands of people have been queuing outside Sassa offices in congested queues for renewals of grants and other Sassa queries.
Police spokesperson, Novela Potelwa confirmed that what transpired during the deployment which led to the police spraying individuals with water, was the subject of an internal inquiry.
“The Saps in the Western Cape has as a consequence requested an urgent meeting with Sassa management in the province in a bid to resolve the ongoing challenges that relate to large crowds converging at Sassa offices, thereby contravening the adjusted lockdown level 3 restrictions.”
The meeting is scheduled to take place this morning.
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez is also expected to meet Sassa to address the challenges and discuss possible solutions.
Human rights organisation, Black Sash, condemned “the police use of force and the shameful and shocking disregard for the human rights of vulnerable beneficiaries, many of whom are disabled and chronically ill”.
“There was no justification for the use of water cannons to enforce physical distancing as Sassa failed to provide an adequate procedure for the reapplication for temporary disability grants including safe spaces, seating and crowd management for compliance protocols,” according to a statement.
The organisation said Sassa needed to better communicate to beneficiaries information pertaining to collection days, the process for renewing disability grants and the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant.
It also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the matter and for Sassa to reinstate and extend the temporary disability until the end of March.
“Sassa simply cannot manage the thousands of medical assessments that can be expected by those seeking to reapply. Given the current economic crisis, exacerbated by Covid-19, Sassa should expect the crowds outside its offices to continue to grow.”
Meanwhile, Provincial Parliament has approved an urgent meeting of the provincial social development committee following the chaos that ensued outside several Sassa offices subsequent to the lapsing of grants.
DA regional Social Development spokesperson Gillion Bosman said the meeting, scheduled for Thursday, would give Sassa an opportunity to explain the “current crisis”.
The City has also been invited to brief the committee on its offers to Sassa to make use of its venues for grant applications.
“We note that the ANC in the Western Cape has attempted to play a game of smoke and mirrors by accusing the City of not making available such venues. The reality is that the City has always stood ready to support, but was most recently rejected by Sassa itself.”