Disaster awaits

There will be hungry children, sick old people and a loan shark feeding frenzy if the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and Social Development Department do not pay 2.7-million Eastern Cape grants at the end of this month.

“Many people have high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. If they don’t get their grants it will be a disaster. People will die,” said Nomboniso Gaya, director of the Port St Johns Community Legal Advice office, set up in 1992.

She said advice offices in Lusikisiki, Flagstaff and Mthatha dealt with the same issues.

There was a flurry of political manoeuvring nationally yesterday with embattled Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini announcing a two-year extension deal with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), despite a Constitutional Court ruling which found the contract was invalid.

Sassa was adamant, posting bluntly: “… all grant beneficiaries who have been receiving social grants and still qualify will continue to receive their grant money without problems as from 1 April 2017”.

The picture from the ground in the Eastern Cape was sketched by civil society and struggle veterans Jonathan Walton and Nobuzwe Mofokeng.

Walton, a long-serving Black Sash field worker, said a small Eastern Cape-wide network of about 40 under-funded community-based Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) tried daily to help vulnerable people get their grants.

“We arose during the struggle against apartheid and we find ourselves still in the struggle because of corruption, maladministration and human rights abuses,” he said.

Mofokeng, an activist at the Interchurch Local Development Agency formed after the Langa massacre near Uitenhage of 21 people on March 21 1985, said: “These grants are a human right. This is a crisis. If they are not paid, it will be a violation of human rights and the right to food security. People’s lives depend on those grants. We have households of eight people whose only income is the grant.”

She was “so angry” with the actions of Sassa, CPS and satellite companies.

“There are so many illegal deductions. One person came to us showing they were only getting R10. We are seeing about 20 people a day [about 2500 people a month] from townships and farms.

“These grants are their last resort to survive. If they don’t get them, there will be no food in the cupboard. Children will go to bed with no food. We have diabetics, people who are HIV-positive, with TB and high blood pressure.”

Walton said: “If grants are not paid beneficiaries will be pushed towards loan sharks. They will have to borrow money at ridiculously high interest rates. Jeepers, people who borrow R50 must sometimes pay as much as R100 back!” — mikel@dispatch.co.za

Mike Loewe – Daily Dispatch.

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