Western Cape govt calls for Sassa to reopen some offices as food protests escalate

The Western Cape government has called on the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to reopen some of its offices after protests over food in Cape Town this week, together with 14 500 calls to its own helpline from people who are going hungry during the lockdown.

"With the expansion or the extension of an extra two weeks of the lockdown, we are starting to see pressures now coming specifically around nutrition," said Western Cape premier Alan Winde.

About 8 000 non-governmental organisations, small and large private sector operations, municipalities and local and national government departments are working together, but more help is needed.

Protests over food in Mitchells Plain, and scenes of some shops being looted, have raised the alarm over whether people will be able to sustain themselves throughout the lockdown.

READ | Additional R53m set aside by WC govt for food relief during lockdown

Sassa closed its offices for the period of the lockdown, in line with directions to reduce public gatherings, but this has left many people needing to register for help battling to get through to call centres.

"Now you can see it is starting to reach a pressure point," said Winde of the lockdown, which has left many people unable to work, and with no income. 


Groceries knocked in shops during an outbreak of looting in Cape Town. (Jenni Evans/News24)


Winde said the government is currently mapping out people not part of the 1.6 million already receiving Sassa grants, and who need help.

READ | Multiple shops looted in Cape Town suburbs

Winde warned that the coming weeks will be crucial in preventing the spread of the virus, and that people should stay indoors.

The provincial government will also screen people who call in, to make sure that there is no "double dipping" of the funds available for food parcels and other assistance.

How to apply for help

According to the province's social development department, these are the numbers to call in the Western Cape to be considered for assistance: 0800 220 250 for food parcel related requests; 0860 142 142 for shared call between 07:00 and 16:00 (Monday-Friday); send a Please Call Me to 079 769 1207; or email service@westerncape.gov.za.

Requests sent through from a call centre, municipal manager, humanitarian relief agency or a registered non-profit organisation are routed to the department's workers.

This information is added to a central regional database, followed by a telephonic assessment by a social worker, and screening of the person's identity against the Sassa database to check whether the person is an existing grant or food recipient.

READ | Looting in Cape Town: 'People are looking for food'

Once a prospective beneficiary is confirmed as meeting the criteria, they are then contacted by the department and given details of when delivery will take place.

"This process is followed to ensure the most vulnerable can receive this limited resource."

Winde said there are also other relief programmes, besides food parcels. One is the support business website, which contains links for assistance.

Watch the Western Cape government's full briefing:

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