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Desperate people brave the cold and sleep outside Sassa offices to access grants

When Eyewitness News spoke to some applicants at the Maponya Mall branch in Pimville this week, they said they had been camping outside for two days hoping to secure a spot.

The lengthy queue at the Maponya Mall Sassa office where some people have been waiting since the night before in order to get their social grants. Picture: Kgomotso Modise/EWN

SOWETO - Desperate people hoping to access social welfare services are spending nights outside South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices so they can get help before the daily cut-off times.

When Eyewitness News spoke to some applicants at the Maponya Mall branch in Pimville this week, they said they had been camping outside for two days hoping to secure a spot.

Sassa said it was offering limited services in compliance with lockdown regulations.

It was just after 6 am when Eyewitness News arrived at the Sassa branch in Maponya Mall and the queue was already at least one kilometre long.

Many people were wrapped in blankets in the freezing cold hoping for their turn to be helped.

They need assistance with services such as child support grants and applications for government’s R350 unemployment relief grant.

But there was a high chance they would not be attended to because this branch, like many others, serves a specific number of people.

A young woman said they spent the night there.

“Last week, we got here at 2 am and we were number 34, but they sent everyone back. I don't know why. They just took 10 people and that was it. We got here at 7 pm last night and decided to sleep over here.”

Another woman said she joined the queue at 4 am on Tuesday but she was turned away after the officials said they could only serve 60 people every day.

She decided to keep her spot in the line by sleeping there.

She has also lamented the treatment of desperate people at the branch in Maponya Mall.

WATCH: How to qualify and apply for the unemployment grant

The limited services and strict cut-off times mean only a small number of people will be seen and the rest will have to try again as they’re left with no choice.

Sassa said each office decided how many people it could serve depending on capacity.

The agency said because of shorter operating hours during the lockdown, it was unable to help many people at its branches.

It added that since everyone did not have online access to apply for the R350 unemployment grant, volunteers would be sent out to assist.

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