South Africa: When You Have to Spend R120 to Access Your R350 Social Grant

14 January 2021

Eastern Cape beneficiaries travel 100km to try to beat the queues

14 January 2021 By Loyiso Dyongman News | Makhanda

Early morning queues on Thursday at Joza post office in Makhanda. Photo: Loyiso Dyongman.

Some Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape are spending R120 of their R350 grant just to get to a Post Office.

Nomangesi Ndwayana and Nandile Ngemntu say the Peddie post office is too busy, so they travel to Makhanda, spending R120 each on a return trip of 100km.

Though they get there at 3am, people are already queueing and there is no social distancing.

SASSA says beneficiaries should adhere to lockdown regulations and wait to be notified before coming to collect grants.

A R120 chunk of the R350 Nomangesi Ndwayana and Nandile Ngemntu will each receive from the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant will go to pay the driver who brought them 50 kilometres from Peddie to Makhanda to queue outside the post office.

The two travelled 50 kilometres from their Peddie village to Makhanda, arriving at 3am, only to find people already queueing.

"We do have a Post Office in Peddie town," said Ndwayana. "But the challenge is that all the people from the rural villages [118 villages according to the Ngqushwa Municipality website] here are served by one Post Office. You can just imagine all those villages coming together to a single Post Office. That is the reason we decided to come to Grahamstown [Makhanda] because they have a few post offices here to assist people."

Ngemntu said they had to hire a car. "Now we have to pay the owner of the car from the R350 that we are going to get here. The sad part is when the offices close and you have not received help and you have to come back again, keeping in mind that we are hiring a car with the same R350. This is all because of being unemployed," said Ngemntu. The return journey to their village costs them each R120.

Ngemntu added that following the Covid-19 regulations is not possible in the queue. "Even in Peddie it is the same story as here. People do not care and some are not even wearing their masks."

When GroundUp visited the Joza Post Office, and the Market Square Post Office in Makhanda centre early on Wednesday morning the queues had already formed. People had brought buckets and small chairs to sit on and were waiting patiently for the offices to open.

Ntobeko Jela, who has been unemployed for five years, said he arrived at the Joza Post Office at 4am. He said he came early because he knows people sleep outside the office. "I need to wake up early to take a spot," he said.

"I know that there is no social distancing and that is something we cannot help. We don't know who is Covid-19 positive and who is not but we just want the money because we are hungry and without food back at home. I live with my mother and we both depend on this R350 grant," said Jela.

Nolulamile Mesani, said she asked her 16-year-old granddaughter to accompany her at 5.30am. "I can't walk all the way from Tantyi to here alone in the early hours. I'm old and she is young and we are both vulnerable to thugs. But there is no other way because we don't have food back at home. We desperately need this R350 as it is going to make a difference," she said.

Eastern Cape Department of Health Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo on Wednesday told GroundUp that the fight against this virus would be won only if people in the communities adhered to the regulations. "We urge people to realise the danger of the coronavirus and follow all the non-pharmaceutical methods. This virus battle will be won in communities and not in hospitals."

Eastern Cape SASSA spokesperson Luzuko Qina said the spike in Covid-19 and a move to an adjusted level 3 had affected services by several institutions, including SASSA.

"SASSA has requested its beneficiaries to use various platforms to receive their R350 grants, namely bank accounts, money transfer through mobile phones, and cash from post offices. However, given the nature of these clients, the poorest of the poor, who either do not have bank accounts nor smart phones, these platforms became just impossible to use. Thus they would rather collect from post offices," said Qina.

He said the Post Office had capacity challenges and as a result SASSA had introduced a booking system through SMS and tickets. "The spike of the pandemic is a concern to us and we request our clients to please adhere to the regulations and only come collect their money at post offices after receiving an SMS or on the day allocated as per the booking ticket. We will continue paying even beyond 31 January with outstanding payments," said Qina.

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