Public transport restrictions to be relaxed for millions of grant beneficiaries

BREAKING NEWS
Public transport restrictions to be relaxed for millions of grant beneficiaries

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Taxis and buses will be allowed to operate for most of the day this week to allow people to get to Sassa pay points.

In a statement on Sunday Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced that the regulations around transport restrictions during the Covid-19 lockdown would be relaxed to accommodate the needs of grant beneficiaries.

There are about 10.6 million people who receive about 17 million welfare grants in the country in various ways.

“Following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the days social grants would be paid, a number of industry bodies made representations on the relaxation of hours public transport vehicles are allowed to operate. A similar request was made by Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu,” said Mbalula in a statement.

He said he had considered Zulu’s request and representations made by various industry bodies, including the taxi industry, he had agreed to amend the Public Transport Directions in order to accommodate grant beneficiaries.

“Effective from tomorrow, 30 March until Friday, 3 April 2020, buses and taxis will be permitted to operate from 5am until 8pm in order to cater to the transportation needs of society’s most vulnerable.”

He said the social distancing by all those using public transport would have to be observed and enforced, however, and his department would issue further directions in that respect.

“Grant recipients are required to carry their identity documents and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) cards when travelling on public transport to assist law enforcement efforts.”

Earlier this month it was announced that Sassa had brought forward the payment of social grants for the elderly and persons with disabilities for the month of April in an effort to lower the risk of Covid-19 infection by reducing congestion at retailers and banks.

In a statement, Sassa said it had been inundated with concerns about grant payments for April in light of the Covid-19 infections in the country.

Sassa said it had decided to bring forward the payment of April’s grants by two days, from 1 April to 30 March. All other grants, such as child support grants, should be collected from 1 April, the agency said.

“It is important to stress that payments on the first two days will be for the elderly and people living with disabilities. This emphasis on prioritising the older persons and disability grants is an effort to ease congestion at retailers and bank infrastructure to help minimise the risk of infection.”

Beneficiaries who normally collect their grants at cash pay points would be able to do so from Friday, 3 April, according to the different dates communicated to them in the previous payment cycle.

“Once the money is in the account, it will remain available for the beneficiary to access anytime and anywhere, as and when required. There is no need to withdraw all the money at once,” the agency said.

“Beneficiaries are also encouraged to swipe their cards to pay for purchases, rather than withdraw cash.”

Sassa would also introduce measures to increase hygiene at cash pay points and ensure that social distancing protocols were followed, it said.

“Social grant beneficiaries are encouraged to avoid areas where large numbers of people are gathered for their personal safety.”

The agency said beneficiaries at pay points and post offices would be provided with hand sanitisers to help prevent Covid-19 infections. All necessary measures would be put in place to ensure that social distancing was adhered to.

“Additional cash dispensers will be availed to ensure that there is no overcrowding around one or two dispensers at cash pay points and post offices. This will increase the speed of serving clients to ensure that there is full compliance with the provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2002 as amended,” the agency said.

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