Hundreds were left stranded in the cold on Thursday after the Khayelitsha SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices closed for renovations without prior notice.
“At a time at which the rising cost of living has made the social security net more vital than ever, Sassa continues to drop the ball,” says Dan Plato, the DA provincial spokesperson on social development.
Cape Town – Hundreds were left stranded in the cold on Thursday after the Khayelitsha SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) office closed for renovations without prior notice.
The Khayelitsha-based office serves thousands in and around the area and residents said no specified date had been given as to when it would reopen.
Mothers with babies could be seen among the crowd queueing outside the gate of the offices in Julius Tsholo Street, Site B.
A notice could be seen posted to the gate of the offices.
Raldiyah Mniti from Macassar said she needed to be at the offices next week and when she saw the notice against the gate she was left worried she may not get the help she needs.
“When we speak to the people (staff) they cannot speak to us. Where must we go now? We pay a lot of money for someone to bring us here.
“So what now? What about the old people and the disability people?” she asked.
Thandi Henkeman, Western Cape regional manager for Black Sash, a human rights organisation, said:
“We are at the Khayelitsha Sassa offices in light of the abrupt closure of the only Sassa offices servicing the area.
“As Black Sash, we have concerns about the impact this has on the beneficiaries and community.
“We also have concerns about the lack of communication or contingency plan to render a service to the community.”
Dan Plato, the DA spokesperson for social development in the province, said he would be visiting the Sassa offices.
“This has left hundreds of residents stranded who rely on these offices for social services.
“The building out of which Sassa operates in Khayelitsha is currently undergoing renovations.
“However, the Western Cape Department of Social Development, which operates from the same building, has made contingency plans to continue serving Khayelitsha residents through home visits during this period.
“This raises the question of why Sassa has not done the same,” he said.
Plato said the closure of these offices represented yet another long line of failures by Sassa in the area as for months residents had been complaining about long queues and waiting hours.
“It is an indictment on Sassa that the most vulnerable, especially those with disabilities and the elderly, had to make trips to the office today without any warning about the office’s closure.
“At a time at which the rising cost of living has made the social security net more vital than ever, Sassa continues to drop the ball,” Plato said.
He called on Sassa to account for its failures not only to government but to the people it served.
Plato said he would be demanding answers from the agency on behalf of stranded beneficiaries.
“We must ensure that the social security net is in safe hands, and that grant recipients are not left high and dry by incompetence and uncaring attitudes,” he added.
Director of communications for Sassa, Shivani Wahab said the renovations are being done by the provincial department of public works and transport.
She said they were informed the department will be undertaking a second phase of its renovations and confirmed the offices were situated in a state owned building.
According to Wahab, the current offices will only be ready for occupation next year, 2023. “Since March 2022, Sassa has been working towards identifying suitable alternative accommodation to enable services in Khayelitsha to continue.
“City of Cape Town halls were identified as an alternative but were found to be non- compliant in respect of stipulated Occupational Health and Safety standards.
“Officials had previously been robbed of Sassa and private assets at a number of these halls- Harare, Site B and Site C.
“To date Sassa has also contacted sub council 10 to assist with the identification of alternative accommodation. Alderman Sitonga has been supportive to date. The last arranged engagement with the management of VPUU was on June 14,” Wahab said.
She said the agency has also submitted documentation to the sub-council 26 offices located at Kuyasa Library but they currently await feedback from the City of Cape Town.
“Sassa has, in addition to this, signed a lease agreement for a site in Khayelitsha known as Bikitsha.
“It is also important to note that Sassa also has two procurement instructions with the National Department of Public Works, which are in process of completion.
“One has been issued for a new office to be constructed while the other is awaiting re-advertisement for accommodation on Khayelitsha.,” Wahab said.
Clients will be directed to the nearest Sassa offices located in either Mitchells Plain, Gugulethu, Eerste River or the Cape Town CBD.
“An outreach programme will be further implemented by the Sassa Khayelitsha Local Office, to ensure the bridging of any service delivery gaps, due to the renovation at the current site,” Wahab said.
She added that provincial Sassa officials will be meeting with stakeholders from Khayelitsha to ensure they are updated on the latest developments in respect of business continuity.
*This story has been updated to reflect comment from Sassa.
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