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Poor forced to pay R120 to access R350 social grant

Eastern Cape beneficiaries travel far to try to beat the queues

18 January 2021 - 11:25 By Loyiso Dyongman
Social relief of distress grant recipients started queuing early in the morning for payments at Joza Post Office in Makhanda, Eastern Cape.
Social relief of distress grant recipients started queuing early in the morning for payments at Joza Post Office in Makhanda, Eastern Cape.
Image: Loyiso Dyongman.

A R120 chunk of the R350 Nomangesi Ndwayana and Nandile Ngemntu will each receive from the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant will go to pay the driver who transported them 50km from Peddie to Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape, to queue outside the post office.

The two travelled 50km from their village, arriving at 3am, only to find people already queuing.

“We do have a post office in Peddie town,” said Ndwayana. “But the challenge is that all the people from the rural villages [118 villages, according to the Ngqushwa municipality website] here are served by one post office. You can just imagine all those villagers coming together to a single post office. That is the reason we decided to come to Grahamstown [Makhanda] because they have a few post offices here to help people.”

Ngemntu said they had to hire a car to make the journey.

“We both have to pay the owner of the car from the R350 we are going to get here. The sad part is when the offices close and you have not received help, you have to come back again, keeping in mind we are hiring a car with the same R350. This is all because of being unemployed,” said Ngemntu.

The return journey to their village costs them each R120.

Ngemntu said following Covid-19 regulations is not possible in the queue.

“Even in Peddie, it is the same story. People do not care and some are not wearing their masks.”

Queues outside the Joza and Market Square post offices in Makhanda centre had already formed early last Wednesday. People had brought buckets and small chairs to sit on and were waiting patiently for the offices to open.

Ntobeko Jela, who has been unemployed for five years, said he arrived at the Joza office at 4am. He said he came early because he knows people sleep outside the office.

“I need to wake up early to take a spot,” he said.

“I know there is no social distancing and that is something we cannot help. We don’t know who has Covid-19 positive but we want the money because we are hungry and without food back at home. I live with my mother and we both depend on this R350 grant,” said Jela.

Nolulamile Mesani said she asked her 16-year-old granddaughter to accompany her at 5.30am.

“I can’t walk all the way from Tantyi to here alone in the early hours. I’m old and she is young and we are both vulnerable to thugs. But there is no other way because we don’t have food at home. We desperately need this R350 as it is going to make a difference,” she said.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the fight against the coronavirus would be won only if people in communities adhered to the regulations.

“We urge people to realise the danger of the coronavirus and follow all the non-pharmaceutical methods. This virus battle will be won in communities and not in hospitals.”

Eastern Cape SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) spokesperson Luzuko Qina said the increase in Covid-19 infections and move to adjusted level 3 had affected services from several institutions, including Sassa.

“Sassa has requested its beneficiaries to use different platforms to receive their R350 grants, namely bank accounts, money transfer through mobile phones, and cash from post offices. However, given the nature of these clients, the poorest of the poor, who either do not have bank accounts nor smartphones, these platforms became impossible to use. They would rather collect from post offices,” said Qina.

He said the post office had capacity challenges and as a result Sassa had introduced a booking system through SMSs and tickets.

“The spike in the pandemic is a concern to us and we request our clients to please adhere to the regulations and only collect their money at post offices after receiving an SMS or on the day allocated as per the booking ticket. We will continue paying even beyond January 31 for outstanding payments,” said Qina.

 

  • This article was first published on GroundUp

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