South Africa


Grant applications pour in and volunteers assist to distribute food parcels

Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu, 12 December 2017. (Photo: Kopano Tlape GCIS)

The government has roped in hundreds of volunteers to help distribute food to the poor and vulnerable. This comes as more South Africans flood the SA Social Security Agency with applications for distress relief during the lockdown.

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has received over 80,000 applications for a Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant since 30 April 2020. Of those applications, according to Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu, only 57,763 were eligible.

To qualify for the monthly R350 grant, the person must be unemployed and over the age of 18. Applicants must also not be recipients of any social grants, including the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NFAS), or receive any unemployment insurance benefits.

The minister was addressing a media briefing on Monday on the department’s response to the Level 4 risk adjustment approach to the payment of the grant as well as to ways of improving food distribution. 

“With the pandemic taking its toll on South Africa and pushing many vulnerable families into destitution, the R407-million budgeted for the SRD programme in the current financial year might not be adequate to reach all those in need in these trying times,” said Zulu.

Sassa offices, which have been closed since the lockdown began in March, were due to resume operations from Monday to allow for access to services, including applying for the SRD grant. 

“Sassa had to ensure that it puts all the required controls in place to ensure that the grant is only accessed by deserving and qualifying individuals,” said Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi, according to TimesLive

Zulu said the department had “successfully pilot-tested a new contactless application system” which went live on Monday.

“We have set up a dedicated WhatsApp line, after having tested the concept through the Department of Health’s WhatsApp platform,” Zulu said. “Those who have applied through this platform during the testing phase will be processed in line with the set criteria and successful applicants will be notified during the course of this week in order to request additional information for payments.” 

For regular Sassa services, there is still the option of visiting the now-open offices. Services, however, will be limited to protect essential workers from the virus.

“Limited services will be provided from Sassa local offices, which will progressively open as from today 11 May 2020,” Zulu said,  “In order to protect the most vulnerable members of society.” 

Mondays and Tuesdays will be used to receive applications from older persons. Priority will be given to those citizens who turned 60 just prior to or during the lockdown period, who were unable to complete their applications before services were stopped.

Wednesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to new applications for child support and foster child grants. Priority will be given to caregivers with new babies, instances where the caregiver has to change or where circumstances have resulted in caregivers having no income to support.

Zulu also noted that there have been significant challenges with regards to food distribution to communities and long queues. 

“These challenges were experienced when the private sector and NPOs distribute food parcels in an uncoordinated manner wherein the local municipality, provinces and law enforcement agencies are sometimes not informed and not part of these distributions,” Zulu said. 

For this reason, Zulu announced that the National Development Agency has recruited and placed 1,200 volunteers to support the distribution of food to vulnerable families.

Zulu further adds that food parcel distributions should be done in a dignified manner in order to avoid “duplication, partisan and corruption challenges”.

“When people are hungry you will know that they will run out to try to catch something. I think we must give dignity to our people,” Zulu said. “So if you are distributing food it has to occur to you that these people need to be treated with dignity. There’s no dignity when you come in a van and you make everybody run around, you strip away their dignity.” DM

To apply for the SRD grant, you may use the following platforms: 

  • The new WHATSAPP line will be 082 0468 553 
  • The USSD or SMS Line will be *134*7737#

The email address will be [email protected]