Sassa scramble: Human Rights Commission demands answers after Bellville queue chaos

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  • The SA Human Rights Commission has demanded a meeting with Sassa to explain themselves over the chaos witnessed at the agency's Bellville office. 
  • Western Cape SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said the Department of Social Development is supposed to be the caretaker of the vulnerable.
  • He was horrified by the use of water cannons to get people to keep a distance between each other, and says the police must explain themselves too.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has demanded a meeting with the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to explain themselves following the chaos and use of a water cannon at the agency's Bellville office. 

"They must give me a full report on what happened," said Nissen. 

He said he had already alerted the department to queues at the Khayelitsha office last winter, and Sassa was alerted to the problem with the closed community halls that had been used as Sassa administration points last year. 

"It's completely unacceptable what happened on Friday," said Nissen. 

"They are supposed to be [the] conscience and the heart of the people," he said. "At the heart of the matter is the dignity of the poor."

Nissen said he was expecting to meet the Western Cape's head of Sassa on Tuesday afternoon and wanted a full report on what caused Friday's events. 

"And whoever gave the command in the police to use a water cannon must explain themselves too," said a livid Nissen. 

"It wasn't riotous. It is no different at Shoprite (a supermarket which offers a Sassa paypoint service)," he said.

"People are there [at the Sassa office] because it is their last hope. They stand in the queues for hours in the sun and the rain."

He said at the very least a queue management protocol should have been in place, with people getting numbers, so that they would not panic about losing their place. 

In the meantime, people were already sleeping in a service lane near the office to be ready for when the doors open on Tuesday, so that they can reapply for a temporary disability grant.

These grants had been automatically extended during the lockdown, but this ended at the end of December. 

Applicants must go for another medical assessment to establish whether their condition has improved, or if it is the same and they still qualify for the grant. 

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