SAHRC assessing human rights violation complaints in grants payment delay debacle

19 September 2023 - 16:26
The South African Human Rights Commission  is mulling over rights violation complaints levelled against social development minister Lindiwe Zulu and Postbank.
Image: SASSA/Twitter The South African Human Rights Commission is mulling over rights violation complaints levelled against social development minister Lindiwe Zulu and Postbank.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is mulling over several rights violation complaints levelled against social development minister Lindiwe Zulu and Postbank over the recent grant payments delay debacle.

On Tuesday morning DA MP Bridget Masango lodged complaints of violations of rights to human dignity, life and healthcare, arguing the grant payment delays prevented thousands people from accessing food and medicine and placed the lives of grant recipients at risk. 

This month about 600,000 South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant beneficiaries experienced payment delays, some struggling for more than a week. The number of people who have not received their grants has decreased significantly this week.

“Delayed grant payments have plunged the poorest among us into profound suffering, impacting their dignity significantly. The ongoing crisis surrounding Sassa grant payments has highlighted the inability of the department of social development to address these pressing issues. It is evident minister Lindiwe Zulu and her department are struggling to provide the level of care and support the most vulnerable members of our society require,” Masango said.  

SAHRC spokesperson Wisani Baloyi told TimesLIVE the commission would assess the complaints before a decision would be taken to investigate. The decision is expected to be made by next week.   

“It is going through an assessment on how the commission should handle this complaint. At the end of the assessment we will inform the DA of the outcome, whether it is a matter that should be investigated by the commission or another institution,” Baloyi said.  

Drinking boiled water while cooking a cup of samp was all pensioner Esme Njosana, 68, could have before taking her high blood pressure medication to avoid collapsing from hunger.  

Njosana from Orange Farm in Vereeniging spoke to TimesLIVE and detailed the struggles she went through last week when her social grant payment was delayed for seven days.

The grants for elderly recipients were supposed to be paid on September 5 and disability grants the next day. 

“I only had a small amount of rice left in my house and I was waiting for pay day to buy food. To my disappointment, when I went to the retail store on pay day there was no money. My heart sank because I had no other plan and no food at home,” she said.      

Knocking at her neighbour’s house to ask for food was not fruitful for Njosana.     

“I went to my neighbour to ask for food, but the situation was the same. Poverty was too much. My neighbour was only able to share a little bit of a maize meal so I could cook some pap for my grandchild.”

That day Njosana cooked pap and a bit of fried onions and that was all the family had for supper.

“While waiting for the grant on e most days I did not eat until 2.30pm when my grandchild came back from school. I had to keep whatever little food I managed to get for us to share. Things were very bad.”     

As the payment delays dragged on, Njosana out of desperation borrowed money from a loan shark for food and to travel to the Marshalltown South African Post Office branch for several days to check for payment.

“My grandchild sometimes came back from school feeling weak because of hunger and that pushed me to get R500 from a loan shark.”

Njosana said she paid back the loan which gained 50% interest within a week. She paid R750 out of her R2,080 grant she received on September 12.     

She does domestic work for a family in the township and is paid R400 to R500 a month. She washes the family’s clothes with her hands but this has started to affect her health.     

Many families describe grants as a "lifeline" and last week proved this.

Pregnant Jessica Theron, 31, from Turffontein was forced to walk about 8km at 4.30pm when the Marshalltown post office closed without her being helped. She did not eat, and she starved herself and her unborn baby the entire day waiting for the grant.  

Theron was one of many grant beneficiaries who found themselves turning into beggars in the Johannesburg CBD, asking for taxi fare to return home.

Makhulo Rajuili, 73, from Orange Farm and Christiana van Zyl, 72, from Newlands suffered from the same fate.     

Van Zyl, a former trauma nurse at Milpark Hospital, told the Sunday Times she suffered from a swelling neck after not being able to buy thyroid medication due to the payments delays.

She buys her medication for her underactive thyroid condition from a private clinic as the specific pills she needed are not supplied in public hospitals and clinics.