DA calls for answers over Umgeni Road Station office as SASSA continues to fail KZN’s most vulnerable

Issued by Elma Rabe, MPL –
14 May 2020 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is deeply concerned by the continued poor treatment of some of the province’s most vulnerable members of society by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

This as long queues, a lack of social distancing (view here), poor communication and disrespect by officials fast becomes the norm for those who are forced to rely on grants.

Yesterday the DA received a report from a grantee who visited the Umgeni Road Station office.  She and her sister arrived before 6am and approximately 500 people were already in the queue waiting for the doors to open.  At no stage was social distancing being practiced or enforced.

When the office opened at 7:30am one of the grantees in the queue informed others that officials would only assist 50 people per day and that the rest would receive slips to come back at a later stage.  When grantees began asking for more information, only the security guard – who was inside the office – showed his face a few times. Otherwise, the crowd was completely ignored by both officials and the office Manager.

While the DA acknowledges the pressure that SASSA must be facing as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic, we regard the conduct of officials at this office as deeply offensive. It is also unacceptable for SASSA to announce that an office will be open to the public for certain grants on certain days and then not assist grantees when they arrive. Furthermore, the lack of communication and accountability by staff at this facility must also be questioned.

The Agency’s inability to deal with the magnitude of the situation was made even clearer yesterday when I tried to call the numbers provided by SASSA to the public. On each occasion I got a recorded message saying my call could not be taken and that I should call back later. I also tried using the USSD code to “apply” for the new R350 unemployment grant.  Again I was told to ‘try again later’ due to high volumes. When I tried to Whatsapp the number, I received a message saying ‘I am a robot. I cannot understand you’.

If this is what KZN’s poorest communities are being put through then SASSA and this ANC-led government are going to have blood on their hands before long. Covid-19 has already left a trail of destruction in our province as many have lost their incomes and are living hand-to-mouth. It is unacceptable that the one agency that should have its ducks in a row continues to frustrate and disappoint so many who are completely dependent on it for their survival.

The DA will today write to KZN Social Development MEC, Nonhlanhla Khoza, to request urgent intervention and answers as to how SASSA in KZN is going to ensure that every citizen in need receives the help they need. The current health pandemic has clearly exposed the failures of an ANC-controlled state. This at the expense of the most vulnerable in our province.