Load shedding causes social grant backlogs as staff file applications by hand

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  • SASSA says load shedding and connectivity issues at branches have forced staff to transcribe applications for social grants manually, leading to longer waiting times for hundreds of people who often travel to their offices before dawn.
  • When GroundUp visited the SASSA office in Khayelitsha on Monday about 200 people stood in line outside.
  • SASSA says it has split the payment dates for social grant recipients in a bid to avoid long queues and overcrowding.

Staff at the offices of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) are having to write out grant applications by hand because of loadshedding and connectivity issues, says SASSA in the Western Cape.

This is causing admin backlogs and even longer waiting times for applicants who queue outside offices.

GroundUp visited the SASSA offices in Khayelitsha this week where the line of about 200 people stretched outside the gates.

Nomelikhaya Gxothiwe from Site B said she walked from home for about an hour and arrived at 6am. She was still waiting in line at 10am. "I walked here with my neighbour because it is dangerous. I would like to use a taxi but I do not have any money … I’m here to get forms so I can apply for a disability grant for my 22-year-old son who has schizophrenia," said Gxothiwe.

Another Site B resident, a 24-year-old who asked to remain anonymous, said she had applied for a disability grant for her baby last month and was there to check on the status of her application. "I’m unemployed and really need that money to take proper care of my child. People arrive here early in the morning to be ahead of the queue," she said.

Small groups of people were being let into the offices every few hours.

Asked about the long queue in Khayelitsha, SASSA’s provincial spokesperson Shivani Wahab said the delay was due to their system being offline.

She said loadshedding had caused challenges for SASSA. "In the instance that the SASSA online system experiences downtime or connectivity challenges, manual applications are completed. Once the system is online, these manual applications are captured within ten working days. System downtime will result in administrative backlogs."

She added that the Khayelitsha office waiting room can only accommodate 30 people at a time.

Wahab said the SASSA had split payments dates for social grant recipients and prioritised those receiving the Old Age Grant and Disability Grant, who are paid on the first two days of the payment cycle. "Recipients of the Covid-19 grant are not paid at the same time as all other social grant clients as an effective measure to alleviate long queues and overcrowding," said Wahab. 

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