Hundreds of Gugulethu residents queuing outside SASSA offices for their disability grants. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Hundreds of Gugulethu residents queuing outside SASSA offices for their disability grants. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Sassa’s lack of capacity is exposing grant recipients to Covid-19

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 21, 2021

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On Friday, January 15, as social grant beneficiaries stood in long congested queues outside the Bellville SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) office, the police who were on site to assist Sassa to manage the growing crowd, used water spray to enforce physical distancing.

The Black Sash strongly condemns the police’s use of force and the shameful and shocking disregard for the human rights of vulnerable beneficiaries, many of whom are disabled and chronically ill.

There was no justification for the use of water cannons to enforce social distancing as Sassa failed to provide an adequate procedure for the reapplication of temporary disability grants including safe spaces, seating and crowd management for compliance protocols.

Grant applicants and recipients at Bellville, many of whom are people living with disabilities, were forced to continue waiting while standing soaking wet on a rainy day.

The police deploying the use of force in the presence of the minister of social development is a clear indication the minister and the agency has lost control of the current situation as more and more people make their way to Sassa offices.

This was entirely predictable, given Sassa’s severe capacity constraints and the premature decision to allow temporary disability grants to lapse.

As the Black Sash has warned, Sassa simply does not have the capacity to safely and quickly attend to medical assessments while processing applications.

We implore the minister to act decisively to bring an end to vast crowds of beneficiaries trying to obtain their constitutional right to social assistance.

Sassa needs to communicate better with beneficiaries.

The Black Sash calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene. Beneficiaries now face the risk of exposure to Covid-19 while crowding outside the agency offices, with the added threat of police callously using force in the form of water cannons.

The department, Sassa and the police should apologise to all those whose rights and dignity were violated.

By Hoodah, Abrahams , Black Sash national advocacy manager.

The Star

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