Sassa officials skip briefing to attend Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s Cape roadshow
Cape Town - Officials from the Social Security Agency (Sassa) skipped a briefing with the standing committee on social development on Thursday to attend a roadshow with Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu in the Western Cape.
Committee chairperson Gillion Bosman said: “They have sent an apology for not attending today’s meeting and asked us to reschedule when they can present their plans and how they are dealing with the temporary disability grants saga.
“Unfortunately today they are busy with a roadshow with Minister Lindiwe Zulu. We will reschedule, but we have now asked them twice for information detailing their plans and we are still waiting for that response,” said Bosman.
“Today’s meeting was initially set up as a follow up to our meeting on January 21 when we looked into the support provided for people receiving disability grants, specifically the backlog in the temporary disability grants.”
“We have a situation in the province where there are over 53 000 outstanding applications that needs to be processed by the end of the financial year- which is the end of March,” said Bosman.
“We have been trying to engage Sassa to get the information that we requested at our last meeting. We also have some information outstanding from last year. The deadline for this was Monday, February 8, and that response has still to be sent,” said Bosman
Listing the department’s support to community kitchens during the pandemic, chief director community and partnership development Mzwandile Hewu said: “The department provided funding to 200 community based kitchens throughout the province to provide food relief to vulnerable communities to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.”
“More than 58 324 beneficiaries throughout the province were reached These community based kitchens provided food relief to vulnerable communities to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and its related lockdowns,” said Hewu.
“Relief goods included dry foods, hygiene packs, sanitisers, personal protective equipment, blankets and mattresses, which were supplied to District Municipalities on request. The dry foods included porridge, orange juice, chicken casserole, pasta and mince, beef/ chicken soup, which the municipalities cooked for their homeless people,” said Hewu.
Committee members Ayanda Bans (ANC) and Ricardo Mackenzie (DA) both wanted the names of the NGOs that received assistance to check if they were doing their jobs effectively, and whether there was any “double-dipping” from municipalities and the province.
MPL Galil Brinkhuis (Al Jama-Ah) said: “How much emphasis is being put on working with religious organisations with regards to distributing food relief?”
Hewu said: “We are working with religious organisations and there are many of them. For instance most of the humanitarian organisations who provide relief food are mainly from the Muslim religion, and we also worked with a coalition of Christian organisations.”
Sassa Offices, specifically in the Cape Metropole, have been facing pressure to ensure that service delivery was ramped up, in an effort to reassess applicants for Disability Grants.
The purpose of Zulu's second engagement with clients at the Sassa Bellville Office on Thursday in January 2021, was to monitor the progress made on the implementation of the Sassa Ten-Point Service Delivery Improvement Plan.
“Temporary Disability Grants were extended during lockdown last year, to cushion clients against the economic hardship of the Covid-19 pandemic. In December, 2020, approximately 210 778 temporary Disability Grants were suspended nationally.
“The Western Cape, had the highest volume of these suspended grants, with 64% of 52 323 concentrated in the Cape Metro. This resulted in a high demand for services and a high influx of clients at Sassa contact points,” Sassa said in a statement.
“The minister was briefed on the region’s progress in respect of the suspended Disability Grants. Sassa Offices, on a national level, are operating with a limited staff capacity, based on Covid-19 Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
“Resources have been redirected to address the temporary Disability Grant influx while ensuring that daily operations and applications for other social grants are not compromised. Despite the challenges of operating during such unprecedented times, Sassa in the Western Cape has made steady progress,” the agency said.
Sassa CEO, Totsie Memela, again pledged her commitment in ensuring that services are rendered to clients, in a dignified manner. Sassa said it remains committed in clearing the backlog of Disability Grant applications by the 31 March 2021.