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Coronavirus: Social distancing tricky in queues for social grants in Soshanguve

Pensioners struggle to keep a social distance during payments of social grants in Soshanguve. Picture: Rapula Moatshe

Pensioners struggle to keep a social distance during payments of social grants in Soshanguve. Picture: Rapula Moatshe

Published Mar 30, 2020


Pretoria - Social distancing for hundreds of elderly people in snaking queues for social grants at a shopping centre in Soshanguve proved to be tricky.

From as early as 5 am pensioners started streaming to the pay point, but their queues were still long at noon.

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They had formed a separate queue from the one by young women, who were there to receive grants for their children.

At the entrance of the shopping centre there were two security guards armed with sanitisers to make sure that those who came through had their hands sanitised.

While pensioners outside the centre struggled to keep themselves away from each other, there was marking tape on the floor inside to divide distances between those in the queue.

Pensioners in queues leading to the entrance stood close behind each other, while others sat down because they were tired.

Others didn't appear to be worried about being in close proximity to each other. 

This was an appeal by government to make social distancing a new habit.

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One of them Malesela Ledwaba, 81, said: "When we started queuing we were able to keep the distance but as we snake through the queue we limited the distance between ourselves."

He said he was still in the dark about how one can contract coronavirus.

"None of us know how we can contract the virus. We don't know whether one can catch it through exposing himself or herself to a person who is coughing or not," he said. 

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Ledwaba was appreciative to the government for pushing back the date for social grant payments.

He, however, complained, that the government cancelled an arrangement previously used to pay pensioners in different groups on different dates.

"We used to get paid on different dates at our local community halls. 

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"But since they cancelled the arrangement we are paid on the same date with young women who get grants for children," Ledwaba said.

He said that back then he would leave his home at 10am and be back before noon.

"One person fainted while standing in the queue this morning and was taken to hospital by an ambulance. 

"We are not given chairs or water. We wish they could take us back to community halls," he said.

Like many other pensioners, Ledwaba said he was looking forward to buying groceries and paying his municipal bills.

"I will then go back home to abide by the government's regulations of lockdown," he said.

Another pensioner Dorcas Sesana, who was worried that many people ignored a call for social distancing, said she has taken a decision to change the behaviour of her family.

"This evening when I arrive home I will make sure that my husband sleeps in a separate bed and I will also sleep in my bed so that we can avoid breathing next to each other," she said.

Most pensioners at the pay point walked to the venue while others used taxis.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the metro resolved to provide bus services to all South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) pay points across all the city from March 30 to April 1.

Buses from A Re Yeng and the Tshwane Bus Service were arranged to ferry pension beneficiaries to their pay point locations and back from 8am to 4pm.

Bokaba said: "The strict measures follow the national lockdown which is aimed at minimising the unnecessary movement of people to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus."

Pretoria News

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