People waiting for hours to be assisted at the Sassa office in Gugulethu. The office was closed for the second time after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.    Brendan Magaar African News Agency (ANA)
People waiting for hours to be assisted at the Sassa office in Gugulethu. The office was closed for the second time after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19. Brendan Magaar African News Agency (ANA)

Sassa staff in Gugulethu expose unsafe working conditions

By Asanda Sokanyile Time of article published May 23, 2020

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Cape Town - THE Gugulethu Sassa office has shut its doors for the second time following staff complaints about the lack of safety measures at the facility.

Earlier this week, a second case of Covid-19 was confirmed at the office.

When Weekend Argus visited the site earlier this week, it was evident that there was little to no effort made to safeguard both staff or clients visiting the office.

There was no social distancing between agents, no protective glass between clients and agents, no ventilation in the office and no hand sanitisers, except at the security entrance where client temperatures were also tested.

These, along with many other safety hazards, were allegedly reported to the office management.

Speaking to Weekend Argus anonymously, a staff member at the branch, said: “We knew more cases were inevitable. We have complained to the manager but our complaints have fallen on deaf ears.”

Another employee at the branch also confirmed that several complaints had been received.

“All I can tell you is that our manager does not care; Sassa does not care about our lives.

“Firstly, this building is not safe to operate from; there are electrical cables moving across the floor from one wall to the other. No glass to separate us from the clients and as you have seen, desks stacked up one on top of the other. The whole office is a ticking Covid-19 time bomb just waiting to explode. It is a wonder only two people at the office have thus far tested positive,” said the employee.

Sassa spokesperson Shivani Wahab confirmed the closure of the Gugulethu office:

“Local office was temporarily closed for sanitisation due to a confirmed case of Covid-19. Operations will resume at this contact point once it has been certified safe for business continuity,” she said.

With regard to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the facility, Wahab said: “After the easing of the lockdown, all Sassa staff were provided with PPE as per stipulated regulations. All Sassa offices were also sanitised in preparation for the resumption of duty. Sassa has an obligation to assist government in limiting the spread of Covid-19 by ensuring that our sites are safe for both clients and staff to access.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of Sassa clients huddled outside the locked gates begged for assistance.

“We are tired, we are hungry and all we would like to do is get our registrations done so we can go,” said Nomaswazi Dyasi.

But the situation is not unique to Gugulethu. Hundreds of Sassa beneficiaries have been camping and sleeping outside the Khayelitsha offices for two weeks. “They take 60 a day, we have no choice but to sleep here. Sometimes we come here before they even close for the day, but we stay and we sleep here because leaving is not an option,” explained 62-year-old Buntu Booi.

Booi spent the night in the snake-like queue for himself and his disabled son.

Wahab added: “Clients have also been continuously advised not to sleep over at any contact point for assistance; the perils of sleepovers have been articulated to clients.”

Weekend Argus

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