At Zolani Centre in Nyanga, many beneficiaries were turned away empty-handed and being sent to other venues and confused as to why they could not get the money when they have changed to the new card system.PHOTO: Tracey Adams/ANA

CAPE TOWN - A number of distressed social grant and pension beneficiaries at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) pay point at Zolani Centre in Nyanga township, were again compelled to leave empty handed on Wednesday afternoon.

Pensioners said they were severely affected by problems with the payment system failures as many families were dependent on social grants and pensions as a source of income. 

About 17 million South Africans are beneficiaries of state grants that include child support, dependency and foster child care. Thousands of pensioners have complained that they have not been able to withdraw their money at designated pay points with their new cards since Sunday.

Nomfusi Baba, a 71-year-old pensioner from Tambo village in Manenberg, who could not be assisted at the pay point said she was worried about her health as she did not have money to buy her medicine.

She said she had arrived at the Athlone Sassa pay point at 6am and waited in the queue for a couple of hours before she was told to go to Zolani Centre in Nyanga, where she was told to go to an ATM on Saturday.

“I don’t even have money to go back home and I have no food at home. What worries me, even more, is the fact that I don’t have any money to buy my medication and now I’m being sent home with nothing,” said the pensioner, adding that it was the first time she had had to experience this since becoming a beneficiary.

This happened despite Sassa acting CEO Abraham Mahlangu saying in a radio interview on Wednesday morning that the agency was making an undertaking that if mid-day came with no improvements, they would hand out food vouchers as a relief measure to make sure that the beneficiaries were not going home with nothing at the end of the day.

Pillet Ngcozana, an 82-year-old pensioner who has helped as a coordinator at the pay points for more than 20 years said that people had been subjected to extreme measures to get the services.

“People are really struggling here, they stand outside in the early hours of the morning and on some rainy day they do not have shelter.”

He said he wished the government could build proper pay point facilities to accommodate the health of many pensioners as they were subjected to changing weather conditions at all times.

During the interview, Mahlangu said the matter was expected to be resolved  in the next two to three days, adding that he was “very confident that the rebooted system that was working on Wednesday was definitely going to clear the backlog as quickly as it can".

African News Agency (ANA)