LISTEN | 'Please help me': mom struggling to submit maternity claim
During her last week of pregnancy, an exhausted Neo Mokgautsi stood in a queue at the labour department in Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, for more than five hours, hoping to submit her maternity leave claim.
Fast forward and her baby will soon be three months old.
Mokgautsi, a sales assistant at a clothing store who was on maternity leave at the start of the lockdown, found herself back in the same queue.
All this time, she has been struggling to submit the claim.
Here is what she had to say:
“I returned from the clinic during my last week of pregnancy and decided to quickly stop by the labour department to submit my maternity forms. When I got here the lines stretched around the block,” she said.
“I went to the security lady and asked her for leniency because I was pregnant and she refused. She made me stand in that long line for over five hours, just to get cut off at 4pm when they closed.”
Mokgautsi said she was told to leave her application form at the gate for it to be processed.
“I was so hurt, I went home hopeless.”
A month later, she went to a labour centre in the North West, where she had been staying with her mother who had been helping out after she gave birth. She was told her application had not been processed and was instructed to return to Johannesburg and resubmit it.
“I came for a second time and the queue stretched till around the corner again. I waited for long hours and when I got inside I found out that my forms were not there. I told them that a worker said I must leave the forms at the gate and they said you leave your forms at the gate at your own risk.”
This week marked the third time Mokgautsi attempted to submit her forms.
Her sister Tshireletso came with to help with the baby boy. She sat on the pavement, cradling the baby covered in a blanket in a carrier.
The line stretched for more than 100m with masked applicants carrying their documents.
Mokgautsi said she had been on maternity leave since the start of the lockdown without any income. She was kicked out of the place she rented after being unable to pay.
“We are now busy moving to a one-room. I told the landlord I won’t be able to pay rent until I get my UIF money and he understood. He gave me until the end of August to pay, so I hope by then I will have my money.
“The department of labour must start looking at the queues outside because not all of us are here for the same thing. Some people are just dropping papers and some people are applying, but no-one is coming outside to check up on us.
“You can’t wait for long hours just to drop papers.”
She is hoping to return to work in September.
Provincial labour department spokesperson Mishack Magakwe said that once Mokgautsi's identification number had been identified, her application would be "fast-tracked".