Things just get worse and worse at the labour department in Bellville

“This is my fifth time coming here,” says UIF claimant

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People queue from the early hours of the morning at the Department of Labour offices in Bellville. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

  • A year after GroundUp first reported on conditions at the Department of Employment and Labour office in Bellville, Cape Town, the situation is worse.
  • People queue from the early hours of the morning and are often sent home without service.
  • Some UIF claims take more than a year to pay out.

It took more than a year for Brackenfell resident Stephan Evans to get his Unemployment Insurance Fund money from the Department of Employment and Labour office in Bellville, Cape Town.

A year after GroundUp reported on poor service and long queues at the offices at the Middestad Mall office in Bellville, the situation has worsened. Clients are complaining about queueing at dawn and still not receiving help, a dysfunctional online system, delayed payments, bad treatment and rude officials.

Evans first registered online in May last year. When he didn’t get feedback, he visited the Bellville offices on 27 February 2023.

He went again on 31 May. “I got there before 6am,” he said. By 11am he got served, but was told his paperwork was incomplete and needed ex-employer and bank signatures. He returned the next day but it was loadshedding and he was told to return another time.

“I went back a week later. After about seven hours of waiting in the queue when I got in front I was told the system is offline.”

By 1 August he had still not been paid. “No one answers the phones when you call them,” he said. “You need to be there at 5am again and wait until probably after 2pm to get helped. They really are pathetic.”

Evans was finally paid out on 21 August 2023.

When GroundUp visited the offices on 7 September at 7am, there was already a long queue. A man was renting stools for R3 to people tired of standing.

Gail Lewis had travelled from Bishop Lavis and was in third place after joining the queue at 3am. She told GroundUp that the officials let in about 30 people, mainly pregnant women and elderly people. She said she had been waiting for UIF payment after she lost her job of 28 years in June.

“This is my fifth time coming here. The first time I came they said my documents were not right. The second time there was loadshedding and we were turned away. The third time the system was offline. The fourth time they said my papers were right but I should register online to receive payment. After that I didn’t receive any money or message to say when the money would be paid. That is why I am back to find out what the hold is.”

“I must pay R150 to people who bring me here and I am unemployed. So far I’ve borrowed R800 for transport from money lenders. I must pay interest. I can’t manage my household bills, I’ve no money to buy groceries and pay for school transport.”

Randall Julies has been trying to claim UIF since April. “Three weeks ago I was standing here on the same spot after many failed attempts to get help. The official said I am standing in the wrong line and I must come back. I told the official that was not the way to work with people: rather guide them before they join the queue. He was rude and insisted that I leave. So I am back again today.”

Another person in the queue who did not want to be named said he had been there for hours. “It is always full here and I wonder why they do not employ more people. At 4am I was at the taxi rank. I arrived at 5am here from Kuils River and the queue was already at the corner. I have been coming here since June.”

“Most of these people in front of me are not going to be helped today, including those with babies on their backs. Two hours before loadshedding they are going to come and dismiss us. One time they just came and told us that the computers were off.”

COSATU spokesperson Matthew Parks said there was a problem at UIF offices across the country, not just in Bellville. “Workers struggle to access what is due to them when they apply to the UIF. This is because of the inefficiencies at the UIF and also employers failing to pay their funds over to the UIF.”

Parks said COSATU was working with the UIF and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) to resolve the problems.

Despite promises to comment on this story, the labour department did not do so.

TOPICS:  Government Labour Unemployment

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Dear Editor

I totally sympathize with all those trying to claim UIF(I am over 60 by the way). I went to Goodwood office at 10 Molteno St. What a nightmare! Four days of queueing. Arriving at 4am in the morning in winter. The queue begins to gather during the night, with one person sitting in the queue on a chair, and others passing the night in the car, so in the morning light there are not 20 people in front of you, but anywhere from 50 to 80 people as they all crawl out of the parked cars sleepy eyed.

After the fourth day of NO success I went to Cape Town Barrack St UIF office - there exists order and respect for the people they are dealing with. UIF branches need to learn from the Cape Town staff: well mannered, kind and helpful. But they do not take nonsense so get your ducks in a row.

The UIF department needs to take serious action. They are dealing with poor unemployed people and just tell them to come back. Where do they get transport money from? Cruel hard world out there!

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