Disability grant applicants sleep outside this SASSA office

SASSA admitted that there had been “technical challenges with the online system” but that these had since been resolved

By Qaqamba Falithenjwa

27 October 2023

Disability grant applicants sleep outside SASSA’s Beautiful Gate office in Philippi, Cape Town, in the hope of getting help as soon as it opens. Photo: Qaqamba Falithenjwa

Some disability grant applicants have resorted to sleeping outside the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) offices at Beautiful Gate in Philippi, Cape Town in the hope of getting help as soon as it opens.

Many of the people who were still in line outside the office by midday on Tuesday, told GroundUp that they were there to submit or collect forms to see if they qualify for the grant.

While SASSA does allow for applicants to submit their documents online and make appointments, many of them say they still struggle to access the online portal and prefer to come in person. The value of the disability grant is currently R2,090, but before applications are accepted, they need to be assessed by a state doctor who then recommends that the relevant grant be approved.

One woman from Lower Crossroads, with severe short-leg syndrome, said she had been in line since 4:45am to collect a form to be filled by a doctor. “This line is supposed to be much quicker because it shouldn’t matter if their system is offline; we just need the forms,” she said. She said previously they could submit the doctor’s form and their IDs online, but now they had to take it into the office in person which meant longer waiting times.

Tired from standing for hours, people were sitting on the hard pavement on flat boxes. Some still had their blankets from their cold night’s stay. Another woman from Marikana informal settlement said someone has been renting chairs to the people in the queue for R5 each.

The line was moving very slowly. At one point a SASSA staffer came out to collect IDs from people who needed forms, then later returned the IDs without the forms.

People complained that the last two weeks had been slower than usual, as the office on average only assisted about ten people per day.

A woman explained that she had been working with other people she met in the queue. “We exchange queueing duties, I queue during the day for three more people while they are at work, then later they come to sleep here and keep a place for me. When I come in the morning I bring them food,” she said.

Black Sash Western Cape Regional Manager, Thandi Henkeman, said that beneficiaries sleeping at payment sites is not uncommon. “Last year we had a major issue at the Khayelitsha SASSA office due to their poor appointment system. Beneficiaries slept outside in order to secure a spot for the following day.”

Henkeman said that SASSA’s online system does not always work, and it is not accessible to everyone.

In response to our questions, SASSA’s spokesperson Shivani Wahab said SASSA had no control of clients sleeping outside its offices. “No client is required to ever sleep over at contact points for assistance. Clients have been consistently informed of the negative impact of sleeping at contact points.”
She acknowledged that there had been “technical challenges with the online system” but that these have since been resolved.