Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.
The DA calls on the Minister for Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to provide clarity on physical applications for the special Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant of R350. She has indicated that the applications for this iteration of the grant would again only be available via online platforms.
The fact that the Minister once again makes it as difficult as possible for the poorest and most vulnerable in South Africa to access this vital grant is ridiculous. Many South Africans have lost everything during the never-ending Covid-19 lockdown that has led to economic meltdown and the loss of millions of jobs since March last year. They do not necessarily have access to internet services or even data to complete the application process online. It is time the Minister opened and capacitated all South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) offices to assist with physical applications and queries. If the EFF can march while disregarding Covid-19 protocols and without the fear of police water cannons, then poor and vulnerable South Africans should be able to queue in a Covid-compliant manner outside SASSA offices to be assisted by the trained and fully paid personnel.
This same obstacle was faced during the first round of the SRD grant and was never addressed to satisfaction. Of the promised volunteers from the National Development Agency (NDA) that were to be trained to assist those without access to the online platforms for applications, little was seen. The DA was inundated with people desperate to apply for the grant, but unable to do so and with none of the promised volunteers in their areas to assist. Does the Minister plan to employ NDA volunteers to assist with this iteration of the grant? Will they comprise the same volunteers that were trained before, or will a new group need to be trained and at what cost?
While the DA welcomes the provision that unemployed caregivers may now apply for the grant, we are worried that the SASSA systems will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications. The reliability of the databases used to vet applicants is also a problem as people have complained that they have been workless for years, yet their names remain on these databases, excluding them from the SRD grant.
Another concern is the closure of post offices as many people depend on them to receive their grants. The capacity of post office is also a concern as people have taken multiple trips to post offices only to be told that they the post offices have run out of cash.
It is disheartening that while government have wonderful plans to help the poorest of the poor, they often fail spectacularly in the execution. If the Minister truly wants to help South Africa’s vulnerable, she must ensure that all people eligible for the grant have the opportunity to apply for it.