DA MP Phumzile Van Damme. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency / ANA
DA MP Phumzile Van Damme. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency / ANA

Concern over lack of Covid-19 precautions during social grant payouts

By SAMKELO MTSHALI Time of article published Mar 31, 2020

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Durban - DA MP Phumzile Van Damme has expressed concern at the lack of precautionary measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19 during the dispensing of social grants.

The dispensing of the monthly social grants entered its second day on Tuesday and there were long queues at ATMs, Post Office branches and supermarkets.  

Images of snaking queues have been doing the rounds on social media as people stood in close proximity to each other as they awaited their turn to collect the government supplied social grants.

Given the strict social distancing measures that have been put in place by the government to stop the spread of the virus within the country, Van Damme took to her Twitter account to lament that recipients of the grant have not been educated enough about the critical need for social distancing.

“Day 2 of social grant collection. Approximately 17 MILLION South Africans receive social grants monthly. These are the poorest & most vulnerable people of our country. The general lack of lack of concern for them during the #COVID19 outbreak has been deeply disappointing.

“People are more concerned about walking their dogs, being "bored" & other frivolities than the 17 million people who not only are at greatest risk of contracting #COVID19 and will be the hardest hit,” wrote Van Damme. 

Sharing a picture posted on Twitter by video journalist Graeme Raubenheimer, which shows people standing in a long queue, Van Damme said: “Look at this. Have these people been taught about social distancing? #COVID19 precautions? Unlikely. Why aren't government officials on the ground educating and assisting?”

She added that the fact that many of them were queuing without social distancing, access to hand-washing facilities and masks for the elderly and sick should be headline news. 

“It is a CRISIS. Many live in informal settlements, are ill and disabled. The spread of #COVID19 will be like a wildfire,” Van Damme said.

She hit out at those criticising social grants recipients for not practising Covid-19 precautions, saying that some people were lecturing them from their ivory towers about not following #COVID19 precautions. 

“Have you considered that unlike you with your data to be on social media, they do not have access to information?” 

“There is so much wrong with SA, but not caring about the most vulnerable in society is the worst. Take a moment to be empathetic. I am so privileged. I can afford medical care, in a private hospital too. Consider your own privilege. Then consider those who don't have what you do,” Van Damme said. 

In another tweet Van Damme also took a swipe at politicians who she felt had used the Covid-19 crisis to grandstand and gain prominence instead of actually worrying about the country’s poor people, who will be hit the hardest. 

“I understand why people hate politicians. For some #COVID19 is seen as an opportunity to posture, gain prominence, be on TV & newspapers instead of authentically fighting for the voiceless, the poorest and most vulnerable. Will these type of people ever change? One lives in hope.”

Political Bureau

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