We can't extend temporary disability grants again, says Sassa CEO
Human rights advocacy group Black Sash has called on Sassa to reinstate the temporary disability grants that were suspended at the end of December 2020.
More than 200,000 grant beneficiaries nationwide have been affected after payments lapsed at the end of last month.
About 50,000 of those 200,000 affected beneficiaries come from the Western Cape, says Sassa CEO Totsie Memela.
Memela explains that temporary grants that were supposed to lapse in February 2020 were extended to December last year to mitigate the impact of the State of National Disaster and the subsequent lockdown.
Memela says Sassa and the Department of Social Development (DSD) have been clear about the duration of the extension.
Meanwhile, Sassa offices in the Western Cape are facing medical assessment backlogs, understaffing, long queues, and people sleeping outside their offices to reapply for the temporary disability grant.
We can't generally extend [temporary disability grants] because... the Social Security Act determines how we treat each and every particular grant.Totsie Memela, CEO - South African Social Security Agency
It's actually unfair for them to say we cannot lapse them because the grants were extended three times last year and it was as a result of the directives that the minister put in place... because of an understanding of the Covid-19 issues.Totsie Memela, CEO - South African Social Security Agency
Each time the extension was made, it was communicated that we've extended for another three months.Totsie Memela, CEO - South African Social Security Agency
Memela joined Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu on a visit to various Sassa offices in Cape Town on Thursday after receiving numerous complaints.
Some rights groups say that thousands of vulnerable beneficiaries in overcrowded queues outside Sassa offices are facing an increased risk of contracting Covid-19.
Memela says that Sassa is engaging with the City of Cape Town and provincial authorities to make community halls and other facilities available again for Sassa officials to use.
The CEO says the agency is considering the possibility of issuing the R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grants to applicants who are still waiting for their temporary disability grant applications to be processed.
With the minister having extended the temporary disability grant... the Westen Cape has got the biggest numbers in the country and we need to explore why a situation where more people are affected in the province.Totsie Memela, CEO - South African Social Security Agency
Sassa in the Western Cape only has 16 offices. We have always worked in what we call service centres and those service centres community halls where people came in the past. We don't have access to those community halls. 179 work points that we had in the past, we don't have access to them [since March 2020].Totsie Memela, CEO - South African Social Security Agency
Listen to the discussion on Breakfast with Refilwe Moloto:
Source : Sethembiso Zulu/EWN