Lockdown: Family of pensioner clarifies how she died while on her way to collect her social grant

2020-03-31 18:24
An elderly man at a SASSA pay-point in Soweto covers his mouth while queuing. (Marco Longari, AFP)

An elderly man at a SASSA pay-point in Soweto covers his mouth while queuing. (Marco Longari, AFP)

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WATCH | Cape Town elderly desperately wait hours for grant money

2020-03-31 13:14

A group of pensioners grew increasingly frustrated as they waited hours for their Sassa grants in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. Watch.WATCH

The family of a pensioner who died outside a post office has called on the public to refrain from publishing false information about her death.

The incident happened in Pimville, Soweto, on Monday when pensioners and people with disabilities went to collect their social grants on the fourth day of the 21-day lockdown.

The family addressed the media on Tuesday to clarify how Ellen Mbhele, 66, had died.

Family spokesperson Vusi Mbokazi called on people to stop spreading rumours about the incident.

Mbokazi said Mbhele did not die while waiting in a queue as it was earlier reported.

Instead, the pensioner lost her life outside a post office after crossing the road.

'The pictures are making us cry'

"She crossed the road and felt weak. She then fell to her knees and that was it," he added.

"There are pictures of her doing the rounds on social media which is very sensitive [to us]. The pictures are making us cry and can even drive us to hate people. We don't like that.

"On Monday, she prepared herself and left for her monthly pension as usual where she met her death. People should get their facts straight before publishing wrong information. The incident has confused not only us, but the police as well and they came here demanding our statements.

"The incident happened outside the scope of social development and not on their premises," Mbokazi said.

Acting Social Development MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited the family and said he was in Pimville to establish the facts surrounding Mbhele's death. 

Lesufi extended his condolences on behalf of the Gauteng government. 

He said the government would assist the family in ensuring that Mbhele's pension money, which she could not collect, was paid to the family.

"Even though the incident happened outside our premises, we feel obligated as the government to contribute something to the funeral arrangements," Lesufi added.

Phumzile Kheswa said her mother collapsed before arriving at the pay point.

"She was about to enter the post office. This didn't happen because she was standing in a long queue or because of negligence caused by anyone.

"It was her time. Unfortunately, it happened while we are dealing with this catastrophic coronavirus in our country."

Kheswa said her family would need to go for counselling after the funeral. 

Two more deaths

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his sadness at Mbhele's death and that of two other pensioners in the Western Cape and Hammarsdale in KwaZulu-Natal.

A 74-year-old pensioner died on his way home after collecting his benefits at Vangate Mall in Athlone, while a 63-year-old woman collapsed in a queue at Hammarsdale Post Office. 

"It is very sad that we have lost three senior members of our community on a day that the government provided services earlier than usual for the benefit of the most vulnerable people in our society.

WATCH | No social distancing or cops as hundreds queue at busy Sassa paypoint in Mamelodi

"This is a difficult time for all South Africans and the loss of these three elderly persons reminds all of us to take the best care we can of vulnerable people around us."

Ramaphosa has instructed the Department of Social Development and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to immediately assist the families of the victims and provide material and psycho-social support through the Social Relief of Distress programme.

Insurance company Assupol has promised to assist with funeral arrangements for the three pensioners.  

Ramaphosa has stressed that beneficiaries need not immediately rush to banks, retailers or cash points to collect their grants as payments will remain in their account.

Read more on:    sassa  |  johannesburg

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