Poor suffer blow over state 'food'

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Poverty-stricken communities of several townships in and around Durban thought they would have a merry Christmas when they were misled into believing that the department of social welfare was giving away food parcels as a Christmas gift to the unemployed.

Since Monday, the social welfare offices in KwaMashu have been packed with people expecting to be registered to receive food parcels.

The parcels were alleged to be in the form of an R870voucher to buy groceries at the nearest wholesale outlet in the area.

The queue, which started as early as 5am, stretched for several blocks, with women waiting to receive grocery vouchers.

Sowetan spoke to an excited Nomusa Ndelu of Inanda.

She said she had heard about the food vouchers from her neighbour who had been at the welfare offices the previous day.

Street hawkers grabbed the opportunity to sell their fruits and cold drinks to the women in the queues, as they moved from their usual spots to mingle with the mass of people.

"We made a lot of money in the past two days.

"These people have been here since 3am while others slept here," said a street vendor who did not want to be named.

The local police station has been packed with people requiring affidavits stating that they were unemployed, as these were allegedly required at the social welfare offices.

Yesterday, more than 2000 people were turned away with nothing in hand.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), which is responsible for the payment of social grants, yesterday dismissed claims that their offices in KwaMashu were issuing food vouchers for the unemployed to buy Christmas groceries.

Provincial Sassa spokesman Vusi Mahaye said they have witnessed thousands of people flocking to their offices since Monday looking for food parcels for the unemployed.

"We wish to clarify to the public that there are no food parcels that are meant for unemployed people," he said.

Mahaye said Sassa does, however, provide what they call a Social Relief of Distress to people after an assessment to verify if that particular person qualifies.

He said the vouchers are only issued to applicants to buy food while waiting for their applications to be processed.

"This is done after the application process has been followed, and persons already receiving any form of state grant are not entitled to receive a Social Relief of Distress stipend at the same time."

A meeting between Sassa and local councillors was to be held late yesterday.

Mahaye said the issuing of the social relief of distress stipend in the area has been suspended until the confusion was rectified.