Sassa CEO apologises for long queues at WC, KZN offices

Police used water cannon to enforce social distancing by elderly and disabled grant recipients outside Sassa’s Bellville offices in the Western Cape on Friday while one person died while queueing in Durban.

FILE: Frustated Gugulethu residents who waited for a full day at the Sassa office and were not assisted, rallied together and confronted Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela about the problems they were encountering at the office. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness News.

CAPE TOWN - The head of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has apologised for grant beneficiaries’ experiences in long queues at Sassa offices in the Western Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police used water cannon to enforce social distancing by elderly and disabled grant recipients outside Sassa’s Bellville offices in the Western Cape on Friday while one person died while queueing in Durban.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and Sassa officials were summoned to account before Parliament’s Social Development portfolio committee on Wednesday morning.

READ MORE: SAHRC encouraged by Sassa progress in alleviating disability grant issues

Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela has expressed regret for the shocking scenes that have unfolded outside Sassa offices.

“I want to first acknowledge and apologise to the clients that have experienced what they had experienced in Bellville last week in terms of them having to stand in queues because what we had is that on Tuesday was a COVID challenge in one of our branches and as a result, the Bellville branch was close which therefore people had to come back on Friday. I want to express sadness about what happened in Durban with the fatality that happened.”

Sassa offices have been inundated by thousands of people needing to reapply for temporary disability grants which lapsed in December, affecting about 210,000 people.

Memela also lamented the fact that criminals were taking advantage of grant beneficiaries and preying on them while they queued.

The agency is briefing Parliament’s health committee on what steps it is taking to ease pressure on Sassa offices and to better manage the queues of people who must reapply for temporary disability grants.

Sassa said that it intended paying applicants R500 a month for up to two months while people waited for the required medical assessment to be done. However, this social relief must also be applied for.

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