‘We’ll die without the grant’

2017-03-03 06:00
Calvin (left) and Elsie Scott say they will not survive without the grant money they receive from Sassa every month. The couple, who live in a Pietermaritzburg home for the aged, have said that without the grant, they will ‘die’

Calvin (left) and Elsie Scott say they will not survive without the grant money they receive from Sassa every month. The couple, who live in a Pietermaritzburg home for the aged, have said that without the grant, they will ‘die’ (Ian Carbutt)

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South Africa’s looming social grants crisis has created panic among Pietermaritzburg’s beneficiaries.

Fear is rife that come April 1, they will be left with nothing.

The crisis follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court in April 2014 that the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for payment of social grants is invalid.

Sassa was ordered by the court to create and implement the insourcing of social grant payments by March 31, 2017. However, with less than a month left to implement a different system, the situation is unresolved and a reported 17 million recipients of social grants across the country face the prospect of their grant money not being paid on April 1.

Elderly couple Elsie and Calvin Scott, who live in a home for the aged in Pietermaritzburg, said on Thursday that without their pension grants they will struggle to survive. Elsie (75) and Calvin (80) said they had been receiving their pension from Sassa from the time they were both in their sixties.

They said both their pensions got into paying board at the home and without the grant they will be homeless.

“We would die without the grant,” said Mrs Scott.

She said apart from her cousin’s daughter, who normally comes to visit the couple, the pair have no living family to help out if they don’t receive their grant.

A source at the home said many of the residents there could not even afford to pay the full boarding fees and only paid what they could.

The source said rental at the home was expected to increase soon and, with residents already unable to afford the current amount, life could become very difficult.

It will be even more of a calamity if grants are not paid next month.

A Northdale woman who applied for a child support grant at the Bombay Civic Centre on Thursday suggested that the money for pensioners should be taken from the salaries of Sassa officials who had foreseen the problem and failed to rectify it.

“Why must we suffer and starve while they live lavishly and their children are fed? They must also suffer because this is the result of their negligence,” she said.

The woman said so many South Africans depend on social grants because of the high unemployment rate.

A Woodlands resident, who did not want to be named, said she and other pensioners would suffer without their social grants, which they rely on for survival. They use the money to buy electricity, food and medication and to pay taxi fares and rent.

“It is going to be tough but as a mother I will have to make sure my children are fed and continue attending school. I don’t know how I will do it but I will have to make a plan,” she said.

“Instead of buying electricity I guess we’ll be buying candles and collecting wood to prepare our meals,” the woman added.

One distraught Thembalihle resident, Sinako Nkontyo, said the possibility of not receiving her grant next month would not affect her as she had been having problems with the Sassa system for months.

“I stopped receiving grant money for my two-year-old son three months ago,” she said.

“While being sent from pillar to post trying to fix the problem, my son became sick and then deaf. I stopped trying to fix the child support grant and tried to apply for disability grant for him. Even that has been a hassle even though I have a doctor’s letter explaining my baby’s condition,” said the mother.

Another Northdale resident said she had been receiving child support grants for her two children for the last 10 years.

“Without the grant money, I would not manage,” she said.

“I depend on that money. I use it to help pay for my children’s school fees and food. Sometimes food is too expensive so it just goes toward school fees.”

The mother of two said the issue had to be sorted immediately and added that many people were relying on the grants as a means of survival.

Padca (Pietermaritzburg & District Council for the Care of the Aged) director Trevor Clowes said that many pensioners and other grant beneficiaries would be in a difficult situation if the crisis is not dealt with properly and urgently.

Clowes said a solution is needed before it’s too late, otherwise the country would “face a major crisis”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sassa

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