The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) is concerned about the health and safety of its members, workers and grant beneficiaries at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) local offices especially in the Western Cape.
In the past couple of days, SASSA offices have experienced a large number of beneficiaries queuing to access services. Most of the beneficiaries are flocking to the offices to renew their Temporary Disability Grants which lapsed last year and at the time NEHAWU called for their extension for a further six months considering that we had a hard lockdown, however, our call fell on deaf ears.
The long queues are a danger to the health and safety of our people because there is no social distancing which potentially increases the risk of contracting the coronavirus. Moreover, beneficiaries have to queue overnight and sleep in the blistering cold in order to receive services in the SASSA offices. This is disheartening considering that most of these beneficiaries are disabled and very old.
As NEHAWU, we believe that SASSA could have planned much better to deal with this situation. Furthermore, we find it abhorrent that the Minister visited Khayelitsha only yesterday to assess the situation when it had been out of hand for a while. A caring government would have moved with speed to attend to the most vulnerable sector of our society. In this regard, we call upon the Department of Social Development and SASSA to consider the extension of the Temporary Disability Grants up until the agency can present a proper plan to deal with the influx at SASSA local offices as a means to reduce transmission of the virus during the current second wave.
The national union will demand an urgent meeting with SASSA CEO in order to get answers regarding this shocking and unacceptable situation. The management of SASSA must answer how it plans to implement the directive of the Department of Employment and Labour of using 50% of staff at a time and what plans they have to ensure that service delivery is not compromised while protecting the lives of its employees. SASSA has the responsibility to ensure that it promotes the constitutional rights of citizens to access social security services and this must be done in a way that does not put at risk the lives of beneficiaries and the workers who must dispense these services.
In the meeting with the management we will make a call for the standardisation of SASSA business processes. For example, in the Western Cape SASSA has a contract with the Department of Health and a few independent doctors to assess beneficiaries while in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape beneficiaries are expected to find their own doctors for assessments. This is a disaster in that all these three provinces are clustered together, however, they have different business processes and organograms. A failed restructuring process has led to the unfortunate situation currently suffered by beneficiaries, our members and workers.
NEHAWU will do everything in its power to guarantee the health and safety of workers and beneficiaries. Those in power will be made to account for the sordid conditions that beneficiaries are subjected to.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat