No money after 3-day wait

2011-07-07 00:00

“WHERE is my son’s disability grant? Why am I not told the reason for it being stopped?”

This is the question Dudu Buthelezi repeatedly asked yesterday afternoon with tears running down her face. She was watching her disabled son, Nhlakanipho Basi (22), being put into an ambulance after he collapsed while waiting in a long queue at Pietermaritzburg’s Department of Welfare offices.

“We have been standing in this queue from 4 am to get explanation about why the grant has been stopped. We were here yesterday and we waited the whole day only to be told at 2 pm that the offices have been closed for the day,” said Buthelezi.

She found out on Monday that the grant has been suspended when she went to withdraw cash from an ATM.

Buthelezi and Basi were among thousands of people who have gathered at Department of Social Welfare offices in Pietermaritz Street and Edendale since Monday after most of their social grants had not been deposited into their accounts.

Among those waiting in queues were people in wheelchairs and the elderly, many of whom are blind and unable to walk.

They even complained of being hungry as they did not have money to buy lunch.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), which pays grants on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare, said it wrote numerous letters to grant recipients telling them to come to the Sassa offices to review their grant status. Reviews are done sometimes in order to avoid fraud.

However, Nonsikelelo Msani from Azalea said she never received any such letter. She collects a grant for her three children, who are between the ages of two and 16.

“I was only told today that letters were sent to me. I was shocked when I got to the ATM on Monday to find that there was no money.

“I came here at 10 am on Monday to inquire about the grants, and I waited until 2 pm when we were told that the offices were closed for the day. I came back at 4.30 am on Tuesday and waited until they closed again at 2 pm. Today I came at 4.30 am and I am still waiting and now it is 1.30 pm and there is no hope that I will be assisted,” said Msani.

She said she was concerned that her children were hungry and have nothing to eat until the grants are released.

“When we asked them why they are working so slowly they are telling us that they are short staffed, because other workers are on sick leave,” said Nonkululeko Ngcobo from Pata.

While waiting, the people said they were frustrated that they were unable to use toilets as they were locked.

They also showed The Witness a box full of empty beer bottles. They alleged that they saw some officials drinking at work.

Sassa spokesperson Mbizeni Mdlalose said most people do not have postal addresses or they have relocated from their previous residential addresses without updating Sassa about their new addresses.

“In a period of 90 days we write them three letters. The first letter is to inform them to come to our offices to review their grants.

“The second is to remind them to come to us and warn them that their grants will be stopped. The last letter informs them that they have been stopped.

“We are reviewing people’s existence in order to avoid giving grants to people who have died.

“We also review them to see if other people still qualify, meaning they are still unable to work and support themselves,” said Mdlalose.

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