Taken for granted: Sassa has left poor ‘poorer’
The matter has been taken to the Human Rights Commission as many haven't received grants since May
Orphaned at a young age, Nolwazi Ndlakazi from the Eastern Cape has been living in poverty for the best part of her adult life.
After the birth of her two children, now aged nine and five respectively, she’s been surviving, like many impoverished rural South Africans, on her children’s monthly social grant.
But since June this year, Ndlakazi, 35, and her children had been going to bed on empty stomachs after the South African Social Services Agency (Sassa) allegedly stopped her children’s grant.
She is not alone.
“We can tell you that we have 320 people on our list who have not received their money from Sassa since May,” said Lucky Shusha, spokesperson for NGO Sindiswa Elizabeth Foundation.
“The list is growing, and we heard that in Lusikisiki and Flagstaff area there’s more than 800 who were deregistered by Sassa as they are being investigated, but for how long?”
Shusha said they’d taken the matter to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate. Most of those affected are people those who were initially based in KwaZulu-Natal, who gave birth to their children while there but applied for the social grant while in that province before migrating back to the Eastern Cape.
Times Select has seen a letter from SAHRC addressed to Shusha about this. The letter said the matter was sent to the Eastern Cape SAHRC regional manager for assessment to check “whether the commission has jurisdiction to investigate the matter”.
Sassa Eastern Cape provincial spokesperson Luzuko Qhina referred Times Select to their national office for a response.
“Their sin was to work in KwaZulu-Natal, as it is geographically close to their villages. Now, when Sassa was moving from CPS to Post Office, we were told that our benefits were being investigated, and it’s been six months now,” she said. “Bathabile Dlamini left these people poorer and imagine how many are in other provinces, who are facing this. We are going to Christmas time, and there’s just no clue if these people will be getting their money.”
Sassa national spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said they were not aware of any number of grant beneficiaries who had not been paid their social grants for an extended period. “It is acknowledged that, with the transition from the previous payment contract to the new payment dispensation, which is characterised by the partnership with the Post Office, some challenges were experienced.
“However, these have all been dealt with as they were reported and all eligible beneficiaries have been paid the grants they are entitled to,” Letsatsi said.
People like Ndlakazi, from Nikwe village in Bizana, told Times Select that this has taken its toll on her health and her children’s development.
“That was our only source of income. We are literally sleeping on empty stomachs and at times with only water. But why is government doing this? What about these innocent souls, these young children who have no idea of what is happening?” asked Ndlakazi, sobbing.
“As I am speaking to you, they are sleeping, they had nothing to eat. I don’t want to lose them, as this could kill them. I depend on their grant as I am sick and on ARV medication.”
Not far from her village, Nombuyiselo Diya of Mbenya village, a mother of three, said her life had never been the same.
“I am hurt to tell you. If those officials in that office [Sassa] tell you that there’s nothing they can do, there’s nowhere to go. What is happening to us is sad; when you are alone you cry as you don’t know what your children will be eating.
“Currently we don’t care about breakfast, lunch – all we need is for them to at least have something to eat before bedtime.”
“How are you investigating a social grant of a child? And how are you investigating a social grant of an 87-year-old who has been receiving money for more than two decades? Are you saying they got that fraudulently? It’s just so many questions we are asking about this Sassa debacle,” Shusha said.