Johannesburg – After spending the night queueing outside the post office to be on time for the R350 special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, many beneficiaries were turned away and told only those who have never received the money are eligible for payment while others were told there is no money, they said.
The grants were announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April as part of the R500 billion economic and social relief measures during the pandemic after the distribution of food parcels was marred by corruption and mismanagement and was not reaching the needy.
It was expected that qualifying individuals would receive the grant from May until next month.
The Sunday Independent this week visited three post offices in the Vaal and found desperate beneficiaries who said they “start the queue at night to avoid spending long hours in the lines” to be in front when the doors open in the morning only to be told there is no money.
Tumelo Mokhomong was one of the recipients who slept outside the post office in Evaton Mall. But come morning, he was told only outstanding payments for May, June and July would be made.
“I spent the whole night here, from 6pm to 6am. I was the first person on the queue in the morning, but I was told that there’s no money. The last time I received it was in July. Now we are told that only people who were not paid in the first three months would receive it,” said a dejected Mokhomong.
The 30-year-old conceded that they are risking their lives by sleeping on the street, but said they had no option because of the long queues. “Last month there were people who were beating everyone in the queue and they wanted to burn us with petrol. We were lucky to survive on that day,” he said.
Recipients at a post office in Palm Springs Mall were also told that payments for August and September would not be made, and that the queue would be cut to only 200, this included Thabang Chaka, who said he had been on the queue since 5am, risking his safety.
“Some people, like me, have to walk long distances to get here. I have to travel from Orange Farm at around 3.30am only to be told that there’s no money. This is not fair at all,” he complained.
Themba Sithole was also disappointed after he was turned away.
“They told me that we have to give those who haven’t received anything a chance. They said I must come in October to get my money. This is sad. The president said this money would be available every month. There’s something very suspicious in the post office,” he said.
And Maggy Thobedi was angry after the queue was cut off.
“We always wake up early and these people don’t even think about that. They don’t think that we come here because we really need that money,” he said.
The queue marshal at the post office confirmed that those who received their money in the last three months, especially those who have received up to R1050, would not receive their grant.
“There’s nothing we can do. Apparently there’s no money to pay these people. There’s confusion at Sassa regarding this money. There are a lot of things, some people registered with their banking details but they (Sassa) still send their money at the post offices.
In the Mafatsana post office, Aubrey Molete was among those told to collect his money for August on September 28. He said he was outside the post office from 2.45am and after his ID was checked, he was told to come at the end of the month. While others were told the “signal” was poor.
SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi’s response to our questions was a repeat of what he had said before: “Beneficiaries who chose to collect their money at the post office should only report there after receiving an SMS saying the money is available for collection to avoid inconvenience. Applications are reviewed every month in case the financial situation of a beneficiary changes from month to month so it’s not automatic that once you are approved for one month that you will receive your money every month.”
Political analyst Dr Metji Makgoba said the ANC did not handle the distribution of these funds with professionalism, integrity and competence.
“Instead of accepting their poor handling of the situation, they came up with excuses to demonstrate their systemic disrespect of blacks. This is a microcosmic expression of a larger problem of implementation in South Africa which defends how the ANC has failed to implement its own policies as well as failing to account to the poor.”
“In consequence, the poor had to wait many, many months and days for something that can hardly support their livelihoods. Are we surprised? Being poor and black in this anti-black society means being systemically disrespected, misrecognised and ignored by this oppressive government to the point of dehumanisation,” Makgoba added.
Activist and leader of the 1976 Soweto uprising Seth Mazibuko said it was an insult for the poor to stand in long queues for R350.
“How decent the amount is, and how dignified the amount is distributed is not important for the government, as long as it will reach the voters before the next election.
People are supposed to be so obsessed with the party in government that they must forget about those who steal millions of Covid-19 funds and focus on the R350 or food parcels.”