DA calls on SASSA to open all offices to speed up applications for unemployment grant

The Democratic Alliance (DA) once again calls on the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to urgently open all its offices to assist with the influx of applications for the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350.

Applications for the grant can be done online via email and a WhatsApp number, while many of the people who are in desperate need of the grant do not have access to these and the other online platforms.

The DA has learned with some trepidation, however, that SASSA’s answer to this problem is not to open its offices, but to train volunteers to go into communities to assist people without access to technology to apply for the special grant.

There seems to be little rhyme or reason for this proposal.

SASSA already has an extensive footprint with offices all around the country. The agency has staff that are readily trained to assist people that are currently at home. SASSA’s next logical step should have been to capacitate their offices and allow their employees to do the jobs they were trained for and for which they are being paid. Why spend money on training volunteers and acquiring gadgets to capture data when those resources are already in play, but not being uitilised? Surely the money allocated for training purposes would be much better spent on assisting the most vulnerable in our society.

SASSA’s proposal could also expose already vulnerable people to exploitation from criminals. If people know that they can apply for the special grant at their local SASSA office, it significantly lowers the risk of criminals taking advantage of them and obtaining their personal information by posing as volunteers.

The DA is also concerned by the requirement for bank account details to apply for the grant. It does not make sense to require people to apply for bank accounts now when the grants will only be paid for six months. SASSA should rather consider using alternative platforms like eWallets to pay grants to recipients.

The fact that people need to provide a proof of residence to apply for the grant is worrying. The DA has received reports that the Lekwa Municipality in Mpumalanga is charging people R30 for proof of residence documents, without providing them with receipts. They are surely not the only Municipality that does this. It is ludicrous to expect people that do not have enough money to buy food, to have the funds to pay for a proof of residence document. This added burden will deter a lot of people that would otherwise have benefited from the grant.

Millions of South Africans are facing utter desperation, as the Covid-19 lockdown continues. SASSA, therefore, needs to get its house in order to ensure that vulnerable South Africans can apply and access these grants as soon as possible.