Lockdown | Sassa runs out of food parcels in Uitenhage

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) in Uitenhage is calling for calm after dozens of frustrated residents protested outside its offices, demanding food parcels on Tuesday, GroundUp reported.

"Food parcels are one of the means or ways we issue out [the Social Relief of Distress] grant," said Sassa Eastern Cape spokesperson Luzuko Qina.

"During Covid-19, the demand has increased owing to the fact that people who used to be able to fend for themselves are now unable to due to lockdown. We requested ward councillors to assist in identifying people who are in distress to make the necessary intervention," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, dozens of residents from Wards 42 to 53 gathered outside the offices in Constitution Road at 08:00 until they were escorted out of town by the police later that afternoon.

They filled out applications for the Social Relief of Distress grant and were told to wait for an SMS notice to collect their food items. But after three weeks of waiting, the group decided to get answers from officials at the office.

lockdown, food parcels
Sassa in Uitenhage is calling for calm after dozens of frustrated residents protested outside its offices, demanding food parcels on Tuesday. (Thamsanqa Mbovane, GroundUp)


Police were called and residents were warned to leave or be arrested for contravening lockdown regulations.

Resident Xolani Nelani from Ward 50 said: "Our councillor Lunga Nombexeza gave out groceries mostly to people who responded when he posted about Sassa groceries in his Facebook account. I have proof that Facebook friends of his who commented to his post have received food from him."

Nelani said when they got to the Sassa offices, an official at the gates told them that "Sassa has run out of Covid-19 groceries" and they would "call us or send us an SMS but many of our neighbours are receiving food in front of us".

Another resident from the Pola Park informal settlement, Nokuzola Dyafta, said: "[On Monday] I had an appointment with a social worker in town and saw a mob at Sassa. People who got food are those from Ward 50 who are ward committee members and relatives of councillor Nombexeza."

Nombexeza (ANC) denied any wrongdoing.

READ: Councillors accused of looting food parcels meant for the poor

He told GroundUp that Sassa had initially told councillors that anyone who submitted forms, qualified for the food parcels.

"We were later told by Sassa that those who earned grants or were on the Sassa system did not qualify… We are not hiding anything in Ward 50. We posted a list of all qualifying people on the Ward 50 Facebook page. I had to remove all the people with the same surname as mine to make sure there are no favours," he said.

'Strictly residents'

Nombexeza said that R5.9 million had been allocated to the 60 wards in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Phakamisa Mfama (ANC), Ward 42 councillor, said: "I did not prioritise any ward committee members too. It's strictly residents."

Sassa's Qina acknowledged that Uitenhage "had huge numbers of people" in need of food parcels. He said the first 72 parcels that were distributed, were part of its first wave.

"We urge our communities to bear with us as the next wave of delivery is under way. Government will do everything humanly possible to alleviate poverty," he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
Would you choose to continue working from home after the coronavirus lockdown if given the option?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's much better for me
40% - 7111 votes
No ways! I can't wait to get back to the office
12% - 2085 votes
A mixture of both would suit me best
48% - 8562 votes
Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo