Rhoda Kadalie
3 minute read
6 May 2016
9:00 am

Protect forgotten people

Rhoda Kadalie

What security measures does government put in place when the country’s most vulnerable go to collect their pensions?

FILE PICTURE: Rhoda Kadalie, anti-apartheid activist.

A headline that soon disappeared from the front pages of the media grabbed my attention. It was not about someone calling another the dreaded k-word; it was not about Oscar Pistorius wanting yet another jail concession; it was not about Jacob Zuma and his corruption charges.

It was about pensioners being killed and shot at a Sassa paypoint in Soweto. Gunmen arrived at the Diepkloof paypoint, attacked pensioners and bombed three ATMs.

In the scuffle one was shot dead, a woman had a seizure, another an asthma attack, many trampled underfoot and a security guard shot and wounded. The gang stole all the money.

The question arises: what security measures does government put in place when the country’s most vulnerable go to collect their pensions, often their only source of income?

The gunmen knew exactly where to go, and were ruthless in their execution, seemingly knowing that security was lax. It is not as though this has not happened before.

Sassa euphemistically stands for the South African Social Security Agency, and apart from the robberies and fraud surrounding this important safety net for the poor, the internet shows where the paypoints are to help the poor, but it also locates every paypoint … Sassa has a bad history.

In 2013, more than 600 000 ghost recipients were removed from the system.

Worse, many public servants have been found to be crooking the system. In a major re-registration revamp, a R10 billion tender was unlawfully awarded to Cash Paymaster Services when Allpay should have qualified for the award after a Constitutional Court judgment ruled in their favour.

Surely in a country where electronic ID cards are replacing ID books and where big business has long ago provided customers with all kinds of safety-proof electronic means of transactions, why is government failing to “get with the programme”?

Politicians have for too long appropriated the right to exclusive services when South Africa’s poor and vulnerable are deeply neglected. And when public servants steal from the poor, they perpetuate a system of corruption that has become embedded from generation to generation.

The endemic fraud in the system cannot be rolled back, despite the efforts of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to make the system foolproof.

If Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan could clean up the SA Revenue Service, why can the same methodology not be used across the board? The department of home affairs has learnt expensive lessons.

It has overhauled some of its systems and the effect on the public is palpable. I was dumbfounded when my brother received his passport within a week.

Sassa deals with 16 million people. It is easy to be corrupt but when it starts with the awarding of irregular tenders, then the corruption starts at the top.

The carnage that took place at Diepkloof has not received enough media coverage, perhaps so as not to frighten investors.

But to give so much space and airtime to adults calling each other racist names as opposed to this very tragic incident is unforgivable.

It proves yet again that black, poor people are expendable and that their stories, or rather, tragedies, are not important.

Recipients of grants are people too, or are they destined to remain God’s forgotten people?