Elderly grant recipients living in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg, were up as early as 05.00am on Monday morning to get their monthly social grant payouts.
While some experienced no hassles at their collection pay points, for the majority it was a different story.
At Alex Mall in London Road, long queues snaked outside the mall entrance into the area outside. Men and women were standing patiently, waiting for their turns to go inside. But the elderly were prioritised and allowed to enter the shopping centre first.
The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is issuing social grants to the elderly and disabled earlier than usual this month, while the country is under lockdown.
To assist with the flows, and to ensure the prioritised group got helped quickly, members of the #TotalShutdownAlex movement were on the ground making sure people were keeping a physical distance as they queued outside the Pick n Pay.
Thandi Mthombeni, a member of the movement, told News24 they had been at the mall from 06.00am and, by that time, there had been elderly people already at the centre to withdraw grants.
Mthombeni said the social grant beneficiaries were cooperative as they educated them on the dangers of not keeping the appropriate physical distance. She said a few were still ignorant, but the movement tried to make them understand why they had to adhere to regulations set by the government in the fight against the coronavirus.
“As #TotalShutdownAlex, we decided to help government because we are also members of the community and it’s up to us to help. We should not leave it to government [alone]. This time it’s not political. It’s not about the government, it’s not about protest. It’s all about fighting together,” Mthombeni said.
Elderly social grant beneficiaries later hailed the process at the centre, saying it was in and out for them without any hassles or difficulties.
Busisiwe Mthembu arrived at the centre around 07.30am and was pleased to find that pensioners were given priority. She said when she woke up in the morning, she had been anxious that she would have to spend all day at the mall, but was relieved to find this was not the case.
“Everything was well planned. I didn’t have any issues at all. I am happy,” the pensioner said.
Mthembu, who has lived in Alex for more than 20 years, said she noticed that some residents were not taking the virus seriously.
“Others [in the community] are saying they cannot be in their homes for too long. Yes, it is difficult to be indoors, but we are scared of the soldiers patrolling,” she said.
Meanwhile in Alexandra Plaza, it was a different story.
By 14.00pm, beneficiaries were still waiting for their payout outside Net1 financial services’ office, with some saying they had been waiting for their turn since 05.00am.
George Maswanganyi said he arrived at the plaza at around 07.00am and found the queue outside the premises. He said it kept moving, as the day progressed, but at some point it stopped because they were told that only one machine was working.
“At some point the line stopped moving and the money had finished; and only one machine was operating,” the 75-year-old said.
While the social grant payouts were under way, members of the SA National Defence Force were seen patrolling the mall and plaza. Others were in the neighbourhood, ensuring the streets were clear.