Long queues on Cape Town's Long Street as throngs scramble to apply for Sassa grants

14 May 2020 - 13:18 By Philani Nombembe
Throngs of people came out to apply for child support grants at the Sassa office in Cape Town on Thursday.
Throngs of people came out to apply for child support grants at the Sassa office in Cape Town on Thursday.
Image: Esa Alexander

Anele Twele woke up at 1am on Thursday to beat the queue at the Sassa (SA Social Security Agency) office in the Cape Town CBD.

But by 10am she was still a couple of paces from the entrance. She desperately wanted to apply for a child grant for her one-month-old twins.

A distressed Twele, 33, was not attended to on Wednesday because the office closed at 4pm while she stood in a snaking queue.

She went home to Dunoon and slept for a few hours before getting into a taxi after midnight and heading back to town. But she found several other people already waiting for the office to open at 7.30am.

The lengthy queue stretched along Long Street between Strand and Riebeek Street. Desperation was visible on most faces.

Anele Twele woke up at 1am so she could queue at the Sassa offices in Cape Town.
Anele Twele woke up at 1am so she could queue at the Sassa offices in Cape Town.
Image: Esa Alexander

The office has served a significant number of people since Sassa offices opened after President Cyril Ramaphosa slightly relaxed the lockdown restrictions from level 5 to 4.

“I got up at 1am, breastfed my kids and left for town,” said Twele.

“Myself and other residents paid R25 each for a taxi to bring us to town. I hope to be served today because this office processes child grant applications on Wednesday and Thursday only.”

She carefully arranged her papers as a security officer took her temperature and sanitised her hands before entering the office.

“I have all my documents,” she said. “I am unemployed and the lockdown has been harsh for me. I am also worried about being infected. I am afraid of the unknown.”

But 64-year-old Christina Suzuki, from Brooklyn, was not as optimistic. She joined the queue at 5.30am and it already curved around the block.

Pensioner Christina Suzuki joined the queue at 5.30am. She was worried that she might not make it past the door for a second day.
Pensioner Christina Suzuki joined the queue at 5.30am. She was worried that she might not make it past the door for a second day.
Image: Esa Alexander

“I was here yesterday and I had to go back home because they closed the door at 3.30,” said Suzuki.

“I stood in the line and I was told to go home. They said they open at 7.30am but today they opened at 8am. There are only three people serving us, but the whole of the Cape is here. I need to reapply for foster grant for two children. I haven’t been paid for those children in the last six months. It is the same thing as yesterday. They must bring in more staff, there are people from Maitland, Khayelitsha and Philippi here. All the other places are coming here.”

Kelby George, 52, from Philippi shared Suzuki’s sentiments. He brought his elderly mother to apply for the foster grant for his nieces.

“We were here yesterday. We left when the office closed,” said George. “We left Philippi at 1.45am this morning and we arrived in town at exactly 2.07am. There is a satellite office in Philippi but it's closed, so the nearest would be Gugulethu. But we didn’t want to go there because we thought that it would be full. We thought it would be much better to come to town.

"The staff has taken my mom inside because of her old age. Otherwise she would still be standing here.”


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