South Africa: Snaking Queue for Covid Grants in Soweto

Residents of Orlando in Soweto, Johannesburg say they joined the line outside this post office as early as 4am in the hope of getting their R350 Covid-19 relief grants this week.
22 October 2020

"I heard the government extended the grant for three months, but I am still waiting for my first payment to be approved"

Residents of Orlando in Soweto, Johannesburg say they joined the line outside this post office as early as 4am in the hope of getting their R350 Covid-19 relief grants this week. Photo: Mosa Damane

Some Soweto residents have spent the week in line outside the post office in Orlando.

Most are there to enquire about their unpaid R350 Covid-19 relief grants.

SASSA says in one month it received 1.9 million applications.

It says a third of those applications were rejected because the applicant is already a SASSA beneficiary or is registered for UIF.

"I heard the government extended the Covid-19 relief grant for three months, but I am still waiting for my first payment to be approved," says Andile Ngwebelele from Orlando West in Johannesburg.

Ngwebelele was among a large group of people queueing outside the post office in Orlando this week, hoping to get answers regarding the R350 monthly special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant. Ngwebelele, like many others, joined the line as early as 4am despite the office only opening its doors at 8:30am.

"Since June I have not received anything from SASSA. I came to the post office on Monday with my ID and I was told to come back the next day. Today, I was again told to come back tomorrow because the money is not reflecting. SASSA's claims that it has approved the payment but it is not reflected at the post office," said Ngwebelele.

Sandiso Mgebiso from Orlando East said he visits the office every month to check whether his grant has been paid. "I feel like I am cursed because all my friends are receiving their grants," he said.

Isaac Thusi also from Orlando East said: "We are packed like sardines and there is no social distancing. We are behaving as if there is no pandemic. Yesterday an old man was dripping with sweat and shivering in the queue since 6am. I pleaded with the post office employees to give the old man a seat, but they refused."

Thusi said the post office is meant to close at 4:30pm but by 11am those still in line are told to leave. "I have not received my September grant and today I was told to come back tomorrow for the third time this week," he said.

SASSA spokesperson in Gauteng, Nandi Mosia, told GroundUp that the highest number of applications received in one month was 1.9 million, of which 66% has since been approved. She said the remaining 33% were rejected for a number of reasons including that the applicant is already a SASSA beneficiary or is registered for UIF.

"Clients are urged to only go to the post office when they get an SMS that confirms payment. Availability of money should not be queried with the Post Office."

She added that SASSA has placed volunteers in most post offices to enforce social distancing.

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