'I want to save some money because I'm not used to getting this much' - What R740 means to SA's poorest

Child grant beneficiaries grateful for payouts after struggling to make ends meet

06 May 2020 - 13:42 By Nonkululeko Njilo and Shonisani Tshikalange
Dozens of Soweto recipients braved long, winding queues in a bid to collect grants and shop for groceries after some had to survive on food parcels.
Dozens of Soweto recipients braved long, winding queues in a bid to collect grants and shop for groceries after some had to survive on food parcels.
Image: Nonkululeko Njilo/ TimesLIVE

As the government began the payment of “topped up” child grants on Wednesday, dozens of Soweto recipients braved long, winding queues in a bid to collect grants and shop for groceries after some had to survive on food parcels.

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) was expected to pay 7-million beneficiaries who would receive an extra R300 in May (amounting in total to R740), and an extra R500 a month from June to October, as per the new government multibillion-rand Covid-19 fund.

The grant, which is normally paid on the first of every month, meant beneficiaries needed to wait longer than usual to plan around their monthly budget.

Thabile Vuso was among those who received their payouts at Pimville post office.

The mother of two said she was grateful to have received her payout after the long wait and uncertainties after technical glitches for other Sassa beneficiaries at various pay points on Monday.

Vuso said she joined the queue as early as 6am. 

“I was worried thinking what I would do if it didn’t come out, because we have run out of almost everything,” she said.

Vuso said the past five weeks had been difficult for her as she had been retrenched two months before the start of the lockdown.

“I was in the process of looking for a job, then the lockdown came. My children and I had nothing.

“If it was not for the food parcels, I would have been forced to go back home,” she said.

While Mavuso and scores of others had the option of making withdrawals at any ATM, they said they could not sacrifice their cash for bank charges.

Zandile Mnyamana expressed relief at the topped up grant. “It’s going to help me a lot.” 

Unlike others, Mnyamana gets financial assistance from her partner. With the grant increased, she said she looked at the possibility of saving at least R200 towards her child’s education.

“The grant has never been enough but we have been surviving. I want to try and save because it’s not like I’m used to getting this much [R740].”

Beneficiaries used the opportunity to purchase groceries in bulk, resulting in a shortage of trolleys for other customers.  

Canned food, maize meal, eggs, chicken portions and nappies were some of the most common items purchased by shoppers.

Another beneficiary, identified only as Itumeleng, left disappointed from an ATM. Asked if she had not received her payout, she answered no — she had received it in full but was not happy because “it’s going to my landlord”.

Itumeleng said her landlord threatened her that she needed to pay R700 rent as per usual or face eviction.

This meant she would have less than R100 left. She was uncertain how she and her child would survive for the rest of the month except ask for help from relatives or head to a loan shark.

Meanwhile in Attlyn Mall in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, grant recipients also joined long queues managed by Community Police Forum members, who were checking for masks and social distancing.

At a Shoprite supermarket, social grant beneficiaries who made use of the 'cash back' services to access their grants were given chairs and crates to sit on.

At Shoprite Supermarket, in Atteridgville, social grant beneficiaries were provided with chairs and crates to sit on.
At Shoprite Supermarket, in Atteridgville, social grant beneficiaries were provided with chairs and crates to sit on.
Image: Shonisani Tshikalange/TimesLIVE

Julia Livhebe, a mother of three, said she preferred to withdraw money at an ATM because she wanted to buy her groceries in bulk.

“My family is big, so I need to buy in bulk, that is why I prefer to withdraw the money,” she said.

Livhebe said she  also needed the cash to pay for some services like burial societies.

A 25-year-old woman also said she preferred hard cash as it helped with planning for the month and as she used some of the money to contribute to a stokvel.

“The payment dates have inconvenienced us as we were used to the old pay dates, now we had to try and shift our responsibilities,” she said.

Long queues were also seen elsewhere in the country.


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