“It’s almost like they want you to give up”: desperate applicants queue at SASSA Eersteriver

Even those who slept at the offices are not sure to be served

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Some grant applicants spent the night at the SASSA offices in Eersteriver, but were still not sure they’d be served. Photos: Masixole Feni

Khuliswa Zwide arrived at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) offices in Eersteriver in Cape Town at 2pm on Tuesday, to be among the first to be served on Wednesday morning. At 8am on Wednesday, when GroundUp visited, she was still in the queue, hoping to be able to submit her application for a disability grant.

Zwide came from Strand. The SASSA branch in Strand closed last November, forcing her and others like her to travel to Eersteriver.

She says she has been trying to get the grant application completed for several weeks.

When GroundUp visited on Wednesday there were dozens of people in the queue.

Also in the queue was Nombongo Madyungo, 60 years old, who arrived at 5am to apply for her disability grant. When GroundUp spoke to her she was far back in the queue.

She says the SASSA application process is so difficult “it’s almost like they want you to give up”.

“Every time you visit to submit a document they requested, they give you another date to bring another single document.”

“I’m not working, I’m a pensioner and yet I have to travel all the way from Strand to Eersteriver.”

Dozens of people were queuing, many of whom had spent the night, some on discarded cardboard boxes they had collected from the nearby mall. Some said they could not sleep at all because it is not safe.

SASSA communications director Shivani Wahab said the SASSA Eersteriver Office has one of the highest number of clients in Cape Town and the grant types were prioritised depending on the day of the week.

She said Child Support Grant applications were prioritised on Thursdays. This allowed for old age and disability grants to be prioritised at the beginning of the week.

She said on Thursday, queue management began at 7.10am and the “client intake” for the day was 315. By midday 180 clients were assisted and the remainder were assisted before the end of business yesterday.

She said clients did not need to sleep outside the offices to get assistance, and there is an online application system that “ensures that every client who accesses our sites for services is duly assisted”.

Vendors sold food and drinks to people as they waited.

Update on 2024-02-16 13:24

This article has been updated with comment from SASSA.

TOPICS:  Social Grants

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