Long queues at SASSA in Khayelitsha

Earlier this week residents picketed, demanding that a new office be built and for staff to be trained

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

14 February 2024

More than 100 people, mostly mothers with their babies, stood in long lines waiting to be helped by SASSA staff in Khayelitsha on Wednesday morning. Photos: Mary-Anne Gontsana

More than 100 people, many of them with babies, stood in long queues outside the Kuyasa library in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on Wednesday. Most were there to apply for a Child Support Grant or to check on the status of their applications at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) which leases two floors at the Kuyasa office.

“I have been here since 5am. My cousin had come earlier to queue for me around 3am which is why I am a bit closer. I am here to apply for a child support grant,” said a Khayelitsha mother who wanted to be identified only as Nomsa.

“It gets really full, so you need to get here as early as possible. Some people even sleep here, especially on social grant days in the beginning of the month. Today the service is better because it is just people coming for things like applications, but it is still full,” she says.

Four women were sitting next to the long queue, selling fruit, vetkoek and beverages. A mattress left behind by someone who spent the night outside the office was lying near the entrance of the building.

Athule Mhinga, who lives in Site B, was standing further back in the line with her baby secured to her back with a blanket. She said it was her first time at the SASSA office. She arrived just before 8am.

“I was told to arrive early but it was not possible for me…I just hope that I will make it to the front of the queue before they close at 4pm so that I don’t get turned away,” Mhinga said.

SASSA’s office in Julius Tsolo Street, opposite the Department of Home Affairs in Khayelitsha, has been closed since July 2022 because the building is being renovated. Meanwhile SASSA reached an agreement with the City of Cape Town to lease two floors in its Kuyasa office from 1 September 2022.

On Tuesday, residents picketed outside the offices of the Department of Social Development in Khayelitsha to voice their frustrations over what they say has been poor service from SASSA in Kuyasa.

Activist Sibongiseni Faku speaking to the picketers outside the gates of the social development offices in Khayelitsha on Tuesday.

The group of about 50 people, which included elderly people and people with disabilities, toyi-toyied and held up placards which read: “SASSA 1 office in Khayelitsha is not the answer for 2.4 million people” and “Stop making people sleep outside SASSA premises”.

Organiser Sibongiseni Faku, from Freedom to the Forgotten, an organisation that promotes the rights of people with disabilities, said: “The dignity of our people is being stomped on. Social development and SASSA are continuously shifting blame.”

Faku said the relocation of the office to Kuyasa has “put a heavy strain on social grant recipients”.

Ilitha Park resident Lumka Mbanyana said: “How can the whole of Khayelitsha be served by one SASSA office? And why are the staff not treating us with dignity?

“Elderly people and people with disabilities sit there hungry for hours on end without help. Some people bring mattresses and sleep outside and get robbed or attacked.”

The protesters handed over a memorandum calling for another SASSA office in Khayelitsha and demanding that social development officials get proper training on how to deal with persons with disabilities.

Fritz Gezwind, a manager at the DSD Khayelitsha office, accepted the memo. The department was given 14 days to respond.