Use of water cannons against SASSA queuers unacceptable - WCape govt

These citizens seeking assistance regarding termination of all Temporary Disability Grants

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and MEC Sharna Fernandez call on President Ramaphosa to intervene in the SASSA crisis

15 January 2021

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of water cannons by the South African Police Services (SAPS) against our society’s most vulnerable, who have queued at SASSA offices today. 

These citizens are desperately seeking assistance from SASSA regarding the termination of all SASSA Temporary Disability Grants, and it is not their fault that they have been failed in this way. 

What took place at SASSA’s local office earlier today could have been avoided had SASSA planned accordingly. Actions like these exacerbate the trauma, experienced by many who are desperate to know when they will receive their grant.

Given the dire situation we are witnessing, I  welcome that the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa, to urgently intervene in this rapidly escalating public health and humanitarian crisis stemming from the termination of all SASSA Temporary Disability Grants in South Africa as at 31 December 2020. 

The letter sent by Premier Winde to President Ramaphosa is against the backdrop of 51 750 Temporary Disability Grants that have been terminated in the Western Cape alone.

Earlier today, media reports indicated that a young woman had a fit whilst waiting in a long line to seek assistance from SASSA. This incident comes at a time where during this past week, we have witnessed thousands of grant beneficiaries gathering at SASSA’s local offices in the province seeking assistance, often camping out for days at a time without food or access to sanitation, and in contravention of COVID 19 social distancing and curfew regulations.

Minister Fernandez said, “Although SASSA is a national entity and not under the jurisdiction of the Western Cape Government, we cannot sit tight-lipped, whilst our most vulnerable citizens are left destitute. These beneficiaries are being robbed of their dignity as we are well-aware that these grants are crucial to providing a plate of food for their families.

The situation we are witnessing across the province at SASSA local offices is completely unacceptable. SASSA originally agreed to do a follow-up meeting with our Department on Friday 15 January 2021, to discuss solutions to address the challenges we are facing on the ground. However, this meeting was postponed by SASSA until Monday 18 January 2021 due to the National Minister’s visit.”

Minister Fernandez added, “It is deeply concerning that SASSA would rather prioritize conducting visits to local SASSA office’s across the Province, instead of using this much-need  limited time to discuss and find plans to this crisis.”

“Beneficiaries must be informed as to whether there are any plans to extend the special COVID disability grant beyond 31 January 2021, and if not, what measures will be taken to avoid a repeat of the large gatherings and protests at SASSA offices seen in the past week.

If the grant is not to be extended, what other measures will be taken by the National sphere of government to assist people given the continued State of Disaster and the resulting loss of income being experienced by our citizens, and what is expected of the provincial and local spheres of government in this regard,” concluded Minister Fernandez.

Statement issued by Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Minister of Social Development, 15 January 2021