The Democratic Alliance (DA) said they would go to court if Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu does not respond to their request of opening South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices across the country by Monday afternoon.
This comes after Zulu said at an interministerial media brief on last Wednesday that everyone was at “war” with Covid-19 following the death of a Sassa official.
In a statement, DA MP Bridget Masango said the DA’s lawyers had written to Zulu and Sassa’s chief executive Busisiwe Memela to request that the offices countrywide were opened to assist with the “influx of applications for social grants and relief during the Covid-19 lockdown period”.
“We have given minister Zulu until 5pm today to respond to our very reasonable request. The DA’s lawyers are instructed to launch a court application to compel government to open Sassa offices if the minister fails to see reason and do the right thing,” Masango said.
She said the DA had continuously requested the opening of Sassa offices but Zulu chose to ignore “not only the pleas of the party, but she also seems deaf to the cries of desperation sounding in the streets”.
“With the announcement of the special R350 social relief of distress grant, Sassa would have no doubt experienced increased pressure on its limited resources during this time.
“While applications for grants can be done via dedicated hotlines, email, texts and WhatsApp, the reality is that many of those who are in desperate need of relief assistance do not have access to these platforms,” she said.
Masango said it was “utterly nonsensical” that Zulu’s department had planned to spend money to train volunteers and buy them equipment to assist those in need rather than address the potential technological challenges.
“This, while Sassa offices remain closed and trained and paid employees sit at home. This money can surely be better spent on food parcels for vulnerable families.
“The department seems hellbent on ignoring sound advice and doing what is right. This is hardly the time to be spiteful when thousands upon thousands of our people are facing increasingly dire situations every day,” she said.
Masango said it was the department’s responsibility to ensure that the people in their care could access immediate relief during the pandemic.
“One way of doing this is to re-open all Sassa offices, in accordance to strict social distancing and hygienic measures,” she concluded.
(Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa)