Social grant recipients in Mpumalanga are concerned that the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) re-registration drive may result in absolute chaos, as no officials appear to be knowledgeable or available to set their minds at ease. On February 17 social development minister, Ms Bathabile Dlamini announced that in order to prevent further large-scale fraud and corruption, all grant recipients have to re-register with SASSA, starting on June 1 up to and including December 31. This follows after a biometric system was developed to expedite payments and reduce “ghost beneficiaries”. Theoretically, grants would continue to be paid in, and beneficiaries re-registered onto the biometric system as they collect from pay points, while those over the age of 75 would be visited at their homes to complete the re-registration – an in effect, saving the country millions of rand. However, the picture in Mpumalanga is rather bleak:
· The DA has been inundated with calls by concerned members of the public throughout the province, that phone calls to their local SASSA branch offices were not being answered. The DA contacted the Department of Social Development and informed them of the problem, but the department could not get hold of the Regional Director, Mr Moffat Mogane nor his personal assistant.
· According to the same department official, they have been inundated with calls complaining that neither eMalahleni nor Ermelo branch offices were answering telephone calls.
· DA representatives throughout Ehlanzeni and the Legislature received countless calls from beneficiaries in KaNyamazane, Nelspruit, KaBokweni and Tonga of SASSA offices not answering calls.
· DA research personnel called every number provided on SASSA’s Mpumalanga webpage, without any success. Numerous calls over a period of two weeks to the national hotline, 0800 601 011 also proved fruitless. The DA is concerned that SASSA’s unavailability throughout Mpumalanga, along with beneficiaries not being properly informed, will result in unnecessary confusion, as well as the re-registering process not being completed in time. The DA is also concerned that beneficiaries over the age of 75 will not be reached in time, forcing them to lose their grants and having to make their own way to pay points for re-registration. While minister Dlamini reassured the public that no grants will be cut off, the general ineptitude of departmental officials may prove otherwise, and beneficiaries are rightly concerned over the re-registration process and they may indeed lose – in thousands of cases – their only source of income. In order to prevent future hardship, the DA has written to the MEC for health and social development, Dr Clifford Mkasi, and urged him to dispatch a task team to establish why regional SASSA offices cannot be reached by telephone, and to resolve the issue as soon as is possible. The DA has also written to SASSA’s Mr Mogane and asked him to explain how the agency intends completing re-registration as smoothly as possible, and how the agency plans to reach the old and the infirm, especially when viewed in the light of the current telephone problems. James Masango MPL