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Reopen community halls to assist Sassa grant recipients, says DA

Sassa queues in Khayelitsha in Cape Town recently. File photo: ANA/Phando Jikelo

Sassa queues in Khayelitsha in Cape Town recently. File photo: ANA/Phando Jikelo

Published Jun 15, 2020


CAPE TOWN - The DA has urged Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu to reopen community halls within municipalities across South Africa to assist vulnerable South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant recipients.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, community halls played a vital logistical role in bringing Sassa services closer for over 18 million vulnerable pensioners, parents, persons with disabilities, and many other grant recipients, DA MP and member of the portfolio committee on social development Alexandra Abrahams said in a statement on Sunday.

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"Community halls are geographically located in the heart of communities, whereas Sassa offices are more typically found in central business districts," she said.

The past few weeks saw Sassa offices close as staff tested positive for Covid-19. There was no communication from Sassa informing recipients of the closures, nor when offices were due to reopen. The increased backlog of cases as a result of office closures placed more strain on an inept Sassa system.

"The infection rate will increase as South Africa prepares for the peak of the pandemic between August and September 2020. This will most certainly see a spike in the infection rate of our frontline staff, including Sassa officials, which will likely see many more Sassa offices close more frequently," Abrahams said.

The reopening of community halls to render Sassa services would result in:

- more logistically and geographically feasible Sassa service points;

- shorter distances for clients to travel, resulting in lower transportation costs;

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- clients without access to telephones or email could physically visit service points and be attended to;

- where Sassa offices were suddenly closed due to positive Covid-19 cases, clients in queues could be redirected to community halls;

- counter the impending backlog of Sassa enquiries and applications as a result of office closures;

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- higher turnover of Sassa clients given that Sassa offices were reported to only be allowing between 30 and 70 appointments per day per office;

- clients could complete forms on the same day, instead of being sent home to complete the form, only to return the follow day or week to stand in another queue;

- allow for all Sassa staff to report for duty while still adhering to physical distancing regulations within the workspace;

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- less congestion outside Sassa offices, which would allow for better physical distancing among clients;

- shorter, quicker queues for clients in the face of the harsh winter elements; and

- access to ablution facilities for clients.

"Most importantly, with increased physical access to Sassa services there is potential to eliminate clients sleeping outside Sassa offices, giving back our people their dignity and allowing them to exercise their constitutional right to access basic services.

"It is in the interest of millions of vulnerable South Africans that community halls open to assist Sassa in providing critical services to those under its care, under the current alert level 3 of the lockdown," Abrahams said.

African News Agency

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