An Eastridge grandmother, who is diabetic and has chronic arthritis, is struggling to get her South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) disability grant because of the national Covid-19 lockdown.
Irma Craig, 47, told the Plainsman that she last received a disability grant payment in December and had before the end of February gone to renew her application.
She receives child support for her son, 14, and daughter 10.
Ms Craig lives in her mother-in-law’s backyard and has been unemployed for five years.
“Most of the time I am in pain and there have been many times when we do not have anything to eat,” she said.
On Friday May 22, after queueing weekly for an update on her application, Ms Craig stood outside the Sassa Mitchell’s Plain office from 4.30am until noon, only to be told to return in October.
“I went to reapply for a disability grant at the day hospital on February 27, which is when social development’s officials capture your medical details to determine whether you qualify for a grant.
“A medical doctor fills in this form and Sassa gets your information from them,” she said.
She then went to Sassa’s Mitchell’s Plain office on March 12 only to be told her medical details were nowhere to be found.
“They told me to return but on my return during the lockdown the offices were closed because they did not have personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitiser.
“Almost every week I went to check. Two weeks ago I was twice outside the Sassa building.
“I don’t know how I’m going to live. I’ve got nothing to eat. I’ve got nothing. It is pathetic how they treat us as if we are not human beings. Everybody is depending on this money,” she said.
Sassa marketing and communications director, Shivani Wahab, said the coronavirus pandemic had placed constraints on certain service aspects and that Sassa, whose offices were closed during level 5 of the lockdown, was not processing any new applications for disability grants as yet.
All enquiries were done telephonically and the Sassa call centre was operational during regular working hours.
“This is due to restricted access to health facilities.”
She said if Ms Craig had visited the medical assessor during January, February or March and had a receipt number, Sassa would make the necessary arrangements.
Sassa offices reopened on Monday May 11, and, in line with government’s phased re-pening of the economy, Sassa offices operated with one third of the total staff capacity.
Ms Wahab said the risk-adjusted approach and phasing in of services was to ensure that stringent hygiene protocols and social distancing were adhered to.
“To ensure that all clients are assisted within the constraints of the pandemic, Sassa introduced grant type days at all local offices across the country.
“Despite these measures to restrict a high number of clients accessing any contact point and in an effort to restrict over-crowding, Sassa offices have seen a high demand for services.”
A queue management system has been implemented to further manage high volumes.
Ms Wahab said some of the offices, including the Sassa office in Mitchell’s Plain, were temporarily closed for sanitisation after officials tested positive for Covid-19 and this compounded service delivery challenges.