While the Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) bid to diversify how people gain access to grants by taking its application process online, we call for the Department of Social Development (DSD) and SASSA to table a report before the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development following the trial period to ensure successful implementation of the system.
This new initiative of SASSA to create an online avenue for all types of grant applications must not fall into the same trap as the online application process for the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant of R350 that left the Agency’s phone and email lines clogged with thousands of unanswered queries every day.
The fact that there were already reports of the applications site not working properly does not bode well for SASSA.
We can only hope that it has learnt from its past mistakes and seeks to protect and serve South Africa’s most vulnerable instead of leaving them in desperation. One of the lessons is the need for trained SASSA personnel to be available at all of its offices to assist those without means or knowledge to access the online platforms.
The application site should be supported by a robust IT system that can handle the millions of potential applications and queries that SASSA has to deal with. South Africa’s poor must never again be put in a situation where they have little to no access to information regarding the success of their grant applications. They must never again wonder whether they will receive their payments on time, if at all.
It is SASSA and the DSD’s job to ensure that their promises are kept. A few bugs in a new system is permitted and understood. SRD applicants, however, experienced a tsunami of ineptitude and callousness and that will not be tolerated again.