South Africa: Scores of Beneficiaries in Pietermaritzburg Rush to Renew Lapsed Disability Grants

12 January 2021

Cancer patient turned away after sleeping outside SASSA office to renew grant

Social grant beneficiaries have been sleeping outside the SASSA office in Raisethorpe, Pietermaritzburg hoping to get a place close to the front of the queue to renew their lapsed disability grants. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

Many, mostly elderly, beneficiaries have been sleeping outside the gates of the SASSA office in Raisethorpe, Pietermaritzburg to renew their lapsed disability grants.

Others say they arrive before sunrise but the line is already snaking by then.

SASSA says the Raisethorpe office has staff shortages due to Covid-19.

Scores of social grant beneficiaries have been sleeping outside the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) office in Raisethorpe, Pietermaritzburg for nearly two weeks, hoping to get a place close to the front of the queue.

Most of the people seen outside the office on Monday were elderly and had blankets wrapped around them after spending the night outside.

At about 11 am, a group started complaining that despite their long wait had still not been assisted because a restricted number of people were being allowed into the facility at a time.

Ntombemhlophe Ndlovu from Howick said she slept with other beneficiaries outside the offices on cardboard boxes on Sunday night.

The 58-year-old said she has stage four cancer but despite being the closest to the front of the queue, she was told officials would not assist her because she did not have an ID.

"I'm wearing a nappy and have a pipe that helps me when I have to relieve myself. I have to renew my grant after it lapsed in January. My ID got lost and I had hoped that when I came with a certified ID copy they would assist me. Now I have to borrow money so that I can get a temporary ID. In my condition I don't know if I will manage another queue at Home Affairs offices," she said.

The Raisethorpe office services people from Woodlands, Northdale, Allandale, Copesville, Swapo A and B and other surrounding areas.

Hlengiwe Mkhize from Cinderella Park said she joined the queue at 5:30 am, and by noon was hungry and tired.

"By the time I arrived, the queue was already long. I'm here to renew my disability grant which lapsed in November. I'm diabetic and on medication. People that have been called inside take forever to come out. There's still many of us who are waiting to just get a date to come back and see the doctor for the renewal of the grants," said Mkhize.

Johannes Mthandazi from Swapo B said he was at the offices to enquire about his grant money that he did not received for two months last year. He said he arrived at the offices at 4 am.

"There are no chairs or toilets here and we are tired and hungry. Other people have gone home because it is clear that they won't get help today. Some of us have to wait, if we have to sleep here we will do so. We have no money for transport or food. All we have to do is wait," said Mthandazi.

SASSA provincial spokesperson Sandy Godlwana said the department is aware of the influx of beneficiaries to their offices. She said it was largely due to staff shortages and strict Covid-19 restrictions.

Godlwana said only six people were on duty at the Raisethorpe. "The office is working on a schedule because some staff members are sick. The department has also made announcements using different media platforms to inform beneficiaries on dates of renewal for different grants. SASSA has been affected by the pandemic but we are trying to keep our offices accessible to the people," said Godlwana.

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