By Kaya 959 News
For about 6,9 million people, the meagre R350 COVID-19 Social Relief Distress grant, initiated since the start of lockdown last year, was the only means to put some food on the table.
The grant’s termination as well as the suspension of outstanding payments, aggravates the current humanitarian crisis. This is according to South African advocacy group, Black Sash.
Black Sash is calling on the government to reinstate the COVID-19 SRD grant in light of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic which is expected to hit the country in the coming months.
Black Sash said SASSA noted a delay in COVID-19 SRD grant payments as it awaited approval to use funding from the previous financial year.
“Besides the time lag for approval, when outstanding payments are eventually made, it may be ‘split over days and weeks’ and is unlikely to be paid in a lump sum. Not only was this grant terminated on 30 April 2021, but now back payments have been temporarily suspended with dire consequences for beneficiaries,” says Black Sash National Director Lynette Maart.
SASSA delays slammed
Maart says this is the second time in recent weeks that SASSA apologises for payment delays.
“But COVID-19 SRD grant beneficiaries often suffered the undignified experience of late payments, a perennial problem even prior to the government’s new financial year,” she says.
Maart says SASSA must intervene decisively and communicate clearly when lump-sum payments can be expected.
Maart says in the absence of this, millions of beneficiaries remain uncertain and continue to gather in large crowds at SAPO branches to make enquiries in the desperate hope for payment.
A recent Ipsos study revealed that about 46% of South African adults and children often went hungry during the pandemic as they did not have enough money to buy food.
“The escalating hunger crisis is a violation of the constitutional right to food. The Black Sash urges government departments and agencies to work together to ensure prompt payment to beneficiaries,” Maart said.
“Mass vaccinations are yet to begin. Food prices and the cost of living continues to skyrocket and over 11 million people are unemployed, using the expanded definition. As a nation, we cannot allow almost half of the country to face hunger and possible starvation,” she said.
Outstanding payments will be made
SASSA Senior Manager for Marketing and Publications, Moabi Abednigo Pitsi, saysthey acknowledged that the Special COVID-19 grant brought millions of previously excluded people into the social security system and provided crucial support for millions directly and many millions more indirectly during these most challenging times.
“SASSA’s part is to ensure payment of grants. Extension or not of the Special COVID-19 grant is not SASSA’s responsibility,” Pitsi says.
Pitsi says out of 9 995 880 applications received for April, 5 917 120 were approved while 5 050 011 were paid out.
“Anyone who has been approved and not yet paid will still be paid even after April. Clients who have been declined have until 31 May 2021 to lodge an appeal. No appeals will be entertained beyond this date.”