Post offices “overwhelmed” with Covid-19 recipients

Over 1.3 million people have been approved for the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant in KwaZulu-Natal

By Nokulunga Majola

6 November 2020

People wait outside a post office in Durban. Most of them are there to check the status of their special Covid-19 grants which are R350 per month. Photo: Nokulunga Majola

Over 1.3 million people have been approved for the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant in KwaZulu-Natal, according to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

This, however, has resulted in snaking queues outside the post offices everyday, with scores of people coming to check whether their money has been paid.

Post Office spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Nobuhle Njapha, said there has been a spike in people visiting their branches for the R350 Covid-19 grant. This is in addition to other grant beneficiaries who have been complaining of long waiting times.

Njapha urged people waiting for the Covid-19 grant not to come to a post office before without first checking their application status online or until they have received an SMS confirming payment.

Evashnee Naidu, regional manager at Black Sash said post offices they have been monitoring in Lamontville, Umlazi and Bishopsgate in central Durban were unable to cope with the mass influx of people coming to collect their grants everyday.

Naidu said that going to a post office had become the default method of cash payment for the Covid-19 grants for applicants without bank accounts. “The arrangements between SASSA and banks for cash-send or e-wallet options only became available as late as September and this created a desperate need for cash payments to be rolled out,” said Naidu.

Naidu said that the Post Office’s lack of adequate infrastructure to deal with large crowds led to the staggering of grant payment dates as of May this year and a further staggering from August to ensure physical distancing was possible.

“The hope was that even the Covid-19 grants could be staggered but as we have all seen this has not happened and there are always masses of people queueing at post offices across the country with very little to no adherence to social distancing.

“Many people in the queue are there out of desperation. They have received no proper communication from SASSA on whether they are approved or not, when their monies will be paid, or they have been awaiting payment for quite some months,” Naidu said.

She recommended that SASSA improve its communication with recipients and that an alternative is found to pay the Covid-19 grants in cash to ensure that post offices are not continuously overwhelmed.