Hundreds of Gugulethu residents queuing outside SASSA offices for their disability grants.Some have spent the night outside these offices,as they have to wait for long hours before being assisted. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Hundreds of Gugulethu residents queuing outside SASSA offices for their disability grants.Some have spent the night outside these offices,as they have to wait for long hours before being assisted. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Calls for president to intervene after social grant queue chaos

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published Jan 16, 2021

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Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has been called to intervene after water cannons were used on citizens queuing for social grants.

Chaotic scenes played out outside the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) Bellville office on Friday where police used water cannons on those queuing, allegedly for not social distancing.

Some in wheelchairs waited in long queues with the hopes of getting assistance.

The police actions have been strongly condemned, with MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez and Premier Alan Winde calling on the president to intervene in the Sassa crisis.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of water cannons by the SAPS against our society’s most vulnerable, who have queued at Sassa offices. These citizens are desperately seeking assistance from Sassa regarding the termination of all Sassa Temporary Disability Grants, and it is not their fault that they have been failed in this way,” said Fernandez.

The termination of all Sassa Temporary Disability Grants ended in December and people were standing in the queues to reapply.

Premier Winde wrote a letter to Ramaphosa asking that he intervene. This comes against the backdrop of 51 750 Temporary Disability Grants being terminated in the Western Cape alone.

Reports indicated that a woman had a fit while waiting in a long line seeking assistance from Sassa. This incident comes after thousands of grant beneficiaries gathered at local Sassa offices in the province seeking assistance, often camping out for days at a time without food or access to sanitation, and in contravention of Covid-19 social distancing and curfew regulations this week.

“Although Sassa is a national entity and not under the jurisdiction of the Western Cape government, we cannot sit tight-lipped, while our most vulnerable citizens are left destitute. These beneficiaries are being robbed of their dignity as we are well aware that these grants are crucial to providing a plate of food for their families,” said Fernandez.

“Beneficiaries must be informed as to whether there are any plans to extend the special Covid disability grant beyond January 31, and if not, what measures will be taken to avoid a repeat of the large gatherings and protests at Sassa offices seen in the past week,” he said.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said that Public Order Police members were called out to assist with crowd management.

”What transpired during their deployment that led to police spraying individuals in the long queues with water is the subject of an internal inquiry. The SAPS in the Western Cape is also seeking an urgent meeting with Sassa management in the province in a bid to resolve the ongoing challenges that relate to large crowds converging at Sassa offices in the Western Cape.”

Weekend Argus

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