On 02 February 2024, Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, visited different SASSA offices in Cape Town.
These oversight visits follow last month’s reports of at least 150 000 SASSA grant beneficiaries not receiving their payouts for January. SASSA is a national agency of the South African government, yet the Western Cape Department of Social Development (WCDSD) receives regular complaints and queries about SASSA from beneficiaries in the province and even from other parts of the country, and the department does everything it can to step into this service delivery gap left my national government. .
The only course of action available to the provincial department is to refer the matter directly to SASSA’s regional staff so that they may look into the matter.
While the operations of SASSA fall outside of the mandate of WCDSD, Provincial Minister Fernandez felt it was important to hear from residents directly on their experiences.
Speaking to Old Age Grant beneficiaries, they commented that they had been queueing at pay points in Mitchells Plain from as early as 4am. There were many who complained about the poor service they have experienced at their local SASSA office, from unhelpful staff to systems regularly being offline and only a limited number of people being helped at a time.
At the Mitchells Plain SASSA office, there was no one to engage with, as the manager was in a meeting. The Western Cape Department of Social Development staff share a building with SASSA and beneficiaries often seek help from them if they get turned away by SASSA or aren’t helped. On certain days there are long queues of people standing outside the office waiting to be helped, with no shelter from inclement weather like extreme heat or rain.
In Wynberg, SASSA staff and management were open to engage with Provincial Minister Fernandez, sharing their challenges and wins. National Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu was at this office on 26 January 2024.
“My office has contacted Minister Zulu several times on previous occasions to meet about SASSA. The fact that the Minister was in Cape Town, meeting with a SASSA local office, without extending an invitation to my office is disheartening as I believe a collaborative approach is best to serve vulnerable citizens. We wish to work with Minister Zulu for the benefit of all those who are dependent on grants, for all those who wake up before the crack of dawn and walk far distances in the dark to withdraw their money. It seems however that the Minister is content to maintain the status quo of poor services to the most vulnerable,” says Provincial Minister Fernandez.
Provincial Minister Fernandez was impressed with the orderly way the Wynberg SASSA office was being run, although management said staff shortages and load shedding sometimes negatively impacted service delivery.
“I will be meeting with SASSA’s provincial management next week. I hope to discuss these on the ground experiences and other issues beneficiaries and staff have raised with us. I trust that through teamwork and collaboration we can work together to ensure beneficiaries receive quality services and are treated with respect, with their dignity protected,” says Provincial Minister Fernandez.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Western Cape Government: Department of the Premier.