Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Black Sash slams Sassa for delays in paying R350 Covid-19 grant

'For about 6.9 million people, the meagre R350 Covid-19 grant is the only means to put some food on the table.'

Human rights organisation Black Sash has slammed the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) for its delays in payments of the R350 Covid-19 special relief of distress (SRD) grant to beneficiaries.

This is after the agency issued a statement last week apologising for the payment delays, saying it was still waiting for approval to use funds from the previous financial year.

Sassa assured applicants who have been approved but not yet paid, they will be “paid as soon as possible”.

“The payment may not necessarily come as a double payment or on the same day. It can be split over days or weeks,” the agency said.

ALSO READ: Rights group wants R350 social relief grant increased, extended

However, Black Sash said this was the second time in recent weeks that Sassa had apologised for payment delays.

“Covid-19 SRD grant beneficiaries often suffer the undignified experience of late payments, a perennial problem even prior to the government’s new financial year,” the organisation said in a statement.  

“Sassa must intervene decisively and communicate clearly when lump sum payments can be expected. In the absence of this, millions of beneficiaries remain uncertain and continue to gather in large crowds at post office branches to make enquiries in the desperate hope of payment.”

Black Sash further said that the termination of the R350 grant and suspension of payments “aggravated the current humanitarian crisis”.

“For about 6.9 million people, the meagre R350 Covid-19 SRD grant is the only means to put some food on the table.

“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.”

Calls for extension

The R350 came to an end last month after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension of the Covid-19 grant for a further three months during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) in February.

Despite lapsing, those who are yet to claim any of R350 grants are eligible to claim even after 30 April. However, no new payments will be made thereafter.

ALSO READ: R350 relief grant: Treasury to brief Parliament on R2.8bn extension

Other human rights organisations, alongside Black Sash, have been calling on the government to extend, expand and increase the R350 SRD grant.

The various organisations has since handed over their memorandum of demands.

Among other things they demand the extension of the SRD grant to, at the very least, the food poverty line of R585 per person a month.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has since announced that the department has requested that the R350 grant be extended, but awaits the decision of the Treasury.

Additional reporting by Siyanda Ndlovu