South Africa

GROUNDUP

More than 100 people forced to sleep outside labour office simply to apply for UIF

More than 100 people forced to sleep outside labour office simply to apply for UIF
Dozens of people have been sleeping outside the Makhado labour office in Louis Trichardt hoping to be among the first in line to apply for Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits. (Photo: Bernard Chiguvare)

With Makhado labour office being staffed by a mere two members, applicants say less than 10 people are served per day.

First published by GroundUp.

It’s 7pm and more than 100 people are huddling under blankets and cardboard sheets outside the Makhado labour office in Louis Trichardt. The group spent the cold night outside on the pavement hoping to be among the first in line to apply for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits.

Members of the Kutama-Sinthumule Crisis Committee were also seen handing out bread and cold drinks to those preparing to spend the night. There are also no public toilets nearby for the group. People we spoke to said that usually not even ten people are served per day.

When GroundUp returned to the labour office before sunrise, about 60 more people had joined the queue. Those who spent the night were trying to dry their items from the midnight drizzle.

Among them was 34-year-old Mukateko Mtombeni who was returning to the office for the second time that week. “I will not go back home until I apply for my UIF. My heart is heavy because I left my breastfeeding baby with my mother. When I came on Monday, the service was very poor.”

Mtombeni lost her job as a cleaner at a school in August this year. She hopes her unemployment benefits will help sustain her three young children. She had to pay R46 for a round trip by taxi from her home in Bungeni to Louis Trichardt. Mtombeni had no money to travel back home.

Kenneth Mudau, 39, from Nzhelele said he first came to the labour office on Sunday evening, expecting to be served on Monday morning. “I have been sleeping here since Sunday and have never been served. I called my wife to bring me money for food and some clothes.”

Moses Thovhakale of the Kutama -Sinthumule Crisis Committee said, “We understand that we are in the Covid-19 period but the government should deploy more people to speed up services at this office.”

Limpopo Department of Labour spokesperson, Lerato Mashamba, said people have been discouraged from sleeping outside the office for health and safety reasons.

She said their Makhado office had reduced staff numbers and as a result was battling to keep up with the demand of applicants. She said currently only two staff members are assisting clients.

“Two of the six staff died due to Covid-19. One retired and the other one is assisting clients in Musina. Since the start of Covid-19, we have been encouraging people to apply online and access services on our website www.labour.gov.za.”

Mashamba said some of the most common reasons delaying UIF applicants is people not spelling items on the form correctly. Names on applications must match the person’s ID. Banking information must be accurate. She said those still struggling with their online applications can contact 072 439 6177 for assistance. DM

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