As the public becomes more alarmed at the potential disaster 17-million South African may face come April 1, 2017 when they do not receive their grants, I sat aghast with my housekeeper, Mathabo, watching minister Bathabile Dlamini, during a press conference, crassly and obnoxiously refuse to be transparent and honest with the media. The media to me are the people who take a message, whether positive or negative, and amplify it so that it reaches all corners of South Africa.
As I sat with Mathabo, trying to translate the challenges of those 17-million people not receiving their grants, I realised that many, many South Africans do not understand the ramifications of what is occurring. Mathabo, who is turning 61 this year, and only has an (old education system) Standard 3 education, does not understand the vast reality of the number “17-million”. I then realised that Mathabo is not alone; had she not been helping in my home, she may also be on welfare, relying on a grant for survival.
And so I decided to tell her what and who the 17-million beneficiaries are. As I unpacked for her who the Sassa beneficiaries are, the extent of my growing anger at the situation became clear to me.
In order to illustrate exactly who these beneficiaries are, I used examples from Kempton Park and Tembisa, which are my constituencies: telling Mathabo about the different people whom I have come across while doing grassroots work in these areas.
Social Relief of Distress
I met a young woman who was HIV-positive and did not have a job. She wanted to take her antiretroviral drugs but said that without food, the medicine made her vomit. So I assisted her in getting a “social relief of distress” grant. She received a voucher which enabled her to go to the local supermarket and buy groceries. Once she got this money, she was then able to take her ARVs.
An elderly woman receiving a pension is taking in young children who have been sexually abused. These children were removed from their families because the alleged perpetrator still live in their homes. The girls are usually awaiting their court appearances. The home receives a Grant-in-Aid in order to keep it going. In this home of safety are 12 young girls ranging from the ages of three to 19. One of the girls, who was 15 years old, had been raped by her stepfather, fallen pregnant and was living in the home with her six-month-old baby. These girls are taken to school every morning and while at school, one of the care-givers looks after the baby.
Child Support Grant
In the Madelakufa informal settlement, I found a young 23-year-old mother living with her three-month-old baby. She said that she could not find work. Her husband was also not working but was trying to find employment. Her baby was not breast-fed, so she was receiving a child support grant which assisted her with buying milk for her baby. The local church had donated clothes for her baby and outside her shack was a line where the baby’s nappies were washed and hanging to dry. If she did not get her child’s milk, she would not know what she would do.
Foster Care Grant
Little Thando has found a family that loves her dearly. They are a good family, but they are battling. The father runs a welding business making gates, while the mother is a tailor, making and mending clothes for the community. Thando’s biological mother passed away three years ago and she is now living with her aunt. She is very happy and goes to the local school where she is able to walk home with her friends. Thando’s aunt receives a foster care grant. If it was not for this grant money, she would not be able to afford another child, or mouth to feed as she is already battling with her own two children.
Visiting St Giles home for people with disabilities, I found 47 beneficiaries. This is outside my constituency: near Eastgate shopping centre. They had different types of disabilities and were affected to varying degrees. Most of the beneficiaries had family members who had emigrated. Some residents’ families were paying for their care while the rest relied on a disability grant to pay for their boarding. While the Department of Social Development paid another grant, it only covered salaries for the caregivers. These are the people who, without their grants, would be unable to care for themselves both physically and emotionally; they require around-the-clock care.
Grants for Older Persons
Back in Tembisa, I discovered two types of older persons. Oumama was living in her RDP house with grandchildren. There were five people in this house. Her daughters were living in the suburbs working as domestic workers but hardly sent money home for their children. Oumama was surviving with her grandchildren on her older person’s grant. Sometimes she would complain that the money would not be enough as there were deductions for airtime of up to R100 which she didn’t understand.
I then visited the Tembisa Council for the Aged. Similar to the people with disabilities, a portion of their grant was used to pay for their board and lodging. They would get about R150 to buy themselves clothes. The home was relatively clean and employed a number of caregivers. I was told that some of the residents in the home don’t even get visitors; it’s as though their families don’t want them any more. If they lose their grants, where would they go?
After all of these visits, one realises that Minister Dlamini is playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. Imagine if any or all of the people mentioned above did not receive their grants? I am in tears just thinking about it. How can a Cabinet minister manufacture such a crisis? Did she not know that the CPS contract was going to come to an end and that another service provider needed to be sought? Did the Constitutional Court not tell her that the CPS was appointed illegally? How long has she known this? And what did she do with this information? One cannot help but wonder why she waited so long.
One also wonders who will be benefitting from this manufactured delay. One wonders if this delay was not a deliberate strategy to benefit CPS, a company that seems to struggle with BBBEE credentials: who are their black empowerment partners, what empowerment of black people has been driven by CPS? I come up with a blank after asking these questions.
After having visited people who are beneficiaries of Sassa grants and asking myself all these questions, I now see their faces in front of me – and I am a very angry South African.
If there is one thing to be angry about – this is it. DM