Maverick Citizen

Coronavirus: SOCIAL GRANTS

Social grant payouts marked by chaos for elderly at pay points

Social grant payouts marked by chaos for elderly at pay points
There was no physical distancing at the shopping mall in Atlantis, Cape Town on Monday 30 March 2020 as recipients endured long queues to collect their grants. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Day one of social grant payouts for the elderly in parts of the Western Cape saw chaos as the elderly queued for hours at major retails stores with some collapsing and some opting to leave. In the Eastern Cape, quick thinking brought an end to early morning grants chaos.

The frail, those in wheelchairs or propped by walking sticks and crutches were shown little respect by younger shoppers who competed to get first into line at Shoprite and Pick n Pay in Atlantis.

At some shops, pleas by the elderly and infirm to be given preferential treatment fell on deaf ears. It was heartbreaking to witness the suffering etched on their faces while waiting patiently, often in pain, to draw their social grants.

Monday 30 March 2020 was the first opportunity for thousands of grant recipients since the 21-day lockdown began to draw money and do some shopping to sustain them for weeks to come.

In Atlantis, 66-year-old Angeline van Wyk had been standing in the queue since 6.30am at Shoprite. She collapsed after an hour and a friend who was also standing nearby called her daughter.

“I’m not a very healthy person and I cannot stand too long. I was standing for about an hour in the line when my legs suddenly gave in. I fell to the floor and one of my friends called my daughter who came to help me,” Van Wyk said.

Law enforcement officers checked taxis outside the mall in Atlantis, Cape Town, Monday 30 March 2020. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

After Van Wyk regained her strength she waited another hour in line before she finally entered Shoprite.

An hour after this incident, another elderly person collapsed and was carried into the shopping mall by security guards where she was attended to and given time to recuperate. Elderly people suffering with diabetes were also left standing for hours in queues.

All over the province old people, too tired to stand any longer, were seen sitting on any surface or structure they could find. Most of the elderly Daily Maverick spoke too said they were disappointed in the government and said they felt “forgotten”.

Abraham Croutz, 77, was one of those whose legs couldn’t handle the long wait and eventually, after an hour, decided to go home and to return again either on Wednesday or Thursday. 

After waiting in line at a mall in Atlantis for his Sassa grant, Abraham Croutz’s experienced pain in his hips and decided to walk home. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Croutz has a hip ailment and is unable to stand for longer than 30 minutes. Daily Maverick witnessed young people in the queue flatly refusing to allow Croutz to move to the front of the queue.

The problem was further compounded by technical glitches when the grants system went offline and payments were halted. At some shopping centres the disappointed elderly were seen leaving empty-handed after they were told to return on Tuesday.

At most of these shopping malls people did not maintain the required physical distance to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Social grant beneficiaries and shoppers, seemingly oblivious to the threat of Covid-19, said the queues were so long and standing a metre apart was impossible. 

One grant beneficiary summed up the situation, remarking: “The lines look like waves in the sea.”

Although wheelchair bound 70-year-old Elizabeth Jooste was satisfied that she could draw her pension, she expressed concern about the number of pensioners whose children waited at home to “rob them of their pensions”.

“There are many tik addicted children and grandchildren beating up their parents and grandparents for their pension. I think during this difficult time we are experiencing we should stand up and name and shame these heartless children and grandchildren,” Jooste said.

A tired 82-year-old Sofia Jooste outside the mall in Atlantis, Cape Town, waiting for her sassa payment. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Taxi operators were also accused of overcharging vulnerable people and, in some instances, charged these pensioners as well as workers up to R40 to get to their points of destination.

Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus Mckenzie said he was aware of these reports and implored taxi operators and associations not to overcharge people during this very difficult time.

The overwhelming number of people who were transported on Monday were vulnerable, said Mckenzie, and could not spend double the time to go to pick up their pension.

At Cleary Park shopping centre in Port Elizabeth, there were long queues and many cars in the parking lot.

Former member of the Eastern Cape legislature and Khoi San leader in Nelson Mandela Bay, Christian Martin, said there was chaos at the centre early in the morning.

He said the lockdown rules were not taken very seriously over the weekend and he had reported a number of incidents to the police including groups of people gambling on street corners, youths loitering and “life carrying on as usual” in several parts of the city.

Martin said he had only praise for defence force members who arrived in Port Elizabeth on Sunday amid a call for more assistance to enforce lockdown rules.

Soldiers were seen pushing shopping trolleys for the elderly and explaining personal distancing rules to the large group of people waiting for their grant payouts.

Gary van Niekerk, the youth coordinator for the Patriotic Alliance in Port Elizabeth, said there was a lot of activity going on around the northern areas on Monday but all was “going okay”.

After a chaotic start as shops opened at the biggest shopping centre in the area, Cleary Park, Van Niekerk said chairs were set out for people to wait their turn at the shops.

“The queues were extremely long and a few robberies were reported,” he said.

The premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, said in a statement that 700,000 elderly and people with disabilities were due to receive grants on Monday 30 March and Tuesday 31 March while others would receive theirs on 1 April.

Mabuyane and the MEC for Social Development, Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi, visited payout points and shops in King William’s Town and Zwelitsha. Chairs and spray-painted “bays” were used to enforce personal distancing.

Kouga District Municipality mayor Horatio Hendricks pleaded with residents to practise physical distancing when collecting their grants. The Kouga Municipality is based in Jeffreys Bay. At one of the shops in Jeffreys Bay, shop personnel were using upturned trolleys to keep customers apart.

In Mthatha, hundreds of elderly people arrived as early as 6am from rural villages to collect their pensions. Long queues snaked down the street from the outside of the Post Office.

One of the elderly women in line, Nondumiso “Mamqwathi” Yalelo, 70, from Sibangweni village said she had been waiting since 6am.

“My children are hungry at home. I am worried about transport. I don’t know how I am going to get back home,” she said. “We are not safe at all but we cannot go home without this money because our children will go hungry. We don’t have any food left in the fridge.”

After 4pm there were still queues at the Post Office and at the Spar and Shoprite in Mthatha. DM

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