Coronavirus

Black Sash wants more protection for grant beneficiaries collecting at commercial spaces

By Daily Maverick Staff Reporter 19 March 2020

A South African woman carrying her baby rests against a fence with thousands of South Africans waiting in line outside Gugulethu Social Services office to register for a Social Relief of Distress Grant, Guguletu, Cape Town, South Africa 28 January 2009. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

Human rights organisation, Black Sash is calling on the government to adhere to Occupation Health and Safety guidelines with the strict enforcement of ‘protective measures to prevent local coronavirus transmission’.

The Black Sash issued a media statement calling on the Department of Social Development to speed up communication of strategies to contain Covid-19 transmission at commercial pay points where 95% of beneficiaries collect their grants.

The department should also take into account that there were approximately 3.6-million elderly beneficiaries and over one-million South Africans on disability grants.

Only 5% of grant beneficiaries used the South African Post Office (SAPO) and the rest needed to gather in commercial spaces.

The organisation said it noted Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s directive for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) offices, pay points and SAPO branches to remain operational for April 2020 grant payments.

“Located outside of the minister’s scope is approximately 95% of the 12-million grant recipients who collect their grants at ATMs (61%) and retailers (34%),” noted Black Sash.

These facilities must now adhere to Occupation Health and Safety guidelines and Black Sash has called for the strict enforcement of “protective measures to prevent local coronavirus transmission”.

The minister was called on to communicate “timeously” strategies for containing the spread of Covid-19 in commercial spaces.

“Beneficiaries already spend a huge amount of their grants on transportation costs and bank charges to collect their grants. No further costs should be incurred when beneficiaries are turned back from commercial spaces due to the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people,” said the Black Sash media statement.

The pandemic came at a time when the South African economy is in recession, with a consistently high unemployment rate. 

“Cabinet has indicated that it is finalising interventions to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19. The Black Sash is concerned that for the poor and many workers Covid-19 containment measures will translate into further job losses or a reduction of income.”

The Disaster Relief Fund of R96-million was meant to provide assistance to affected individuals and families. 

“This is a good start, but it is highly inadequate. Our government has ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

“As recommended by the UN Committee, the government must ensure that those between the ages of 18 and 59 years with little or no income and are unemployed, have access to social assistance by October 2020.”

As international calls grow for governments to place measures to mitigate, or remedy the economic outfall of the pandemic by utilising cash transfers to vulnerable groups, “South Africa will need an even bolder and more comprehensive social security safety net to mitigate the negative economic outfall of Covid-19”. DM

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