We've got news for you.

Register on BusinessLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now
Sassa's systems have been slowed down by a deluge of applicants for the R350 grant. Picture: SA GOVERNMENT/VIA TWITTER
Sassa's systems have been slowed down by a deluge of applicants for the R350 grant. Picture: SA GOVERNMENT/VIA TWITTER

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) said its systems were still  overwhelmed and battling to deal with the traffic despite establishing additional social relief grant application channels.

On Monday, hopeful applicants for the R350 grant were unable to make their applications as the website was down. A direct chat service and Sassa’s Facebook Messenger channel, introduced on Friday, were also down.

The USSD channel that reportedly went live on Tuesday — another of the systems meant to ease the pressure on the Sassa website — also had glitches, with applicants saying they were receiving error messages.    

The error message on the Sassa website.
The error message on the Sassa website.
Image: Screenshot from Sassa website

However, Sassa spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko said everything was well on their side and that challenges experienced by applicants could be because of the heavy traffic on all their application platforms.

“The system is a bit slow because of the high volume of people who are trying to access our platforms at the same time,” he told Business Day.

Diseko said applicants should be patient and continue trying to make their applications.

The grant, which was first introduced in May 2020 and lasted until April 2021, will benefit an estimated 9.5-million people: the 6-million unemployed who signed up for the benefit last time as well as 3.5-million caregivers, who will receive it for the first time.

Payment of the grant will last until the end of March 2022 and cost the state R26.7bn.

Since the application process went live on Friday, hopeful applicants have had to deal with system glitches. On Friday, Sassa said the first day of applications for the special Covid-19 grant got off to a slow start due to excessive traffic on its website.

“This is a clear indication of the huge need for food aid, among others, from distressed inhabitants of the country, and therefore the president couldn’t have reinstated this grant at a better time,” Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula said on Friday.

In a statement, Sassa said anyone still experiencing technical difficulties with WhatsApp or the website is reminded that they still have the whole of August to apply to receive their August payments.

“Our technicians are working tirelessly to stabilise the system. We appeal to all affected applicants to please exercise patience.”

At the moment, those wishing to apply for the R350 grant have an option to either use the Sassa website, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or the chatbot on the Sassa website. 

During the first iteration of the grant, almost 10-million applications were received with just more than 6-million approved for payment to the tune of R24bn. All these applications were online or digital applications, which quickened the process.

An additional R15bn was paid as a top-up for six months to all grant types.

Unemployed SA citizens, permanent residents or refugees registered on the department of home affairs database, holders of special permits who live in SA, as well as asylum seekers whose section 22 permits or visas are valid or were valid on March 15 2020 and are aged between 18 and 59 will qualify for the grant. However, grants will not be given to those already receiving a social grant, unemployment insurance benefit, aid from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme or other government Covid-19 support.