Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE / GCIS
Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE / GCIS

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), tasked with distributing social grants says it has received 13-million applications and inquiries for the payment of the R350 a month social distress relief grant intended to help those with no source of income survive the Covid-19 lockdown.

While some of these applications are duplicates, their big number is nevertheless a sign of the acute distress being suffered by SA citizens. This was confirmed on Friday by another statistic supplied by officials of the department of social development who told parliament’s two social development committees that with the coronavirus pandemic, food security has become “a national crisis” with evidence suggesting that about 50% of the population is food insecure.

“According to Stats SA, loss of income resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic may lead to higher levels of food insecurity in SA,” the officials said.

Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula told MPs on Friday that by May 25 Sassa had processed 37,777 payments, while 64,930 applications had been submitted for payment but still had to be processed. A total of 666,381 applications have been approved (but banking details are awaited) of the 6.38-million valid, complete applications received.

A total of 1.6-million applications were rejected as the applicants had some form of income. Internal validation of 3.5-million applications had been completed and 1.2-million identity confirmations are underway.

Memela-Khambula told MPs that the rest were either duplicate applications or incomplete or had inconsistent data, or were just pure inquiries. She noted that the number of applications for the grant has stabilised and the agency is now receiving an average of 240,000 applications per day.

To qualify for the grant, which is in place for six months, applicants must be SA citizens, permanent residents or registered refugees; be unemployed; be above the age of 18; and not be receiving any income, social grant, unemployment insurance benefit, or any stipend from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, among other criteria.

MPs were also informed about the social relief efforts of the Solidarity Fund, Gift of the Givers, FoodForward SA, and the SA Red Cross Society. These efforts have included the distribution of food parcels.

According to the department of social development, more than 788,000 food parcels have reached 3-million people.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu stressed that she has not issued a directive prohibiting organisations from distributing food but does insist that they comply with health protocols. In terms of the department’s regulations, any person who is distributing food or food parcels must inform the local police station of their intention to do so beforehand.

Humanitarian efferts

The leader of the Solidarity Fund’s humanitarian effort Nicola Galombik said that as at May 26, the fund had delivered 280,107 food parcels to households across the country, noting that most of the efforts of the fund, which received pledges of about R2.6bn, were concentrated on assisting with the government’s health response.

Among the challenges experienced by the Solidarity Fund in delivering food parcels were safety and security in the context of a need far surpassing existing allocations and the depletion of stocks of certain types of food, said Galombik.

The Red Cross has also been involved in food distribution as well as assisting with screening and the collection of samples for testing.

The primary focus of the Gift of the Givers, said director Badr Kazi, was the protection of front-line healthcare workers and healthworkers in general through the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as hospital equipment. The organisation has also been active in the provision of food parcels and water.

FoodForward SA, the largest food redistribution charity in the country, has also been active in distributing food .

The need for greater co-ordination between relief organisations and the government was highlighted at the meeting.

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