The South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC or the Commission) is deeply concerned with the circumstances around the provision of grants to Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities on the 4th of May 2020. Millions of vulnerable people expected to receive their monthly grants but were confronted with a myriad of challenges created by a reported system failure or glitch which resulted in the non-payment of grants. To exacerbate the situation, a large proportion of these people were constrained to stand or sit in long queues during the COVID 19 lockdown, reportedly without adhering to social distancing guidelines which placed them under considerable health risks.
The Commission is concerned with the lack of care taken by South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to ensure the timely payment of social grants. Of particular concern, is the recurrence of such challenges over the last few years. The Commission hopes that adequate measures will be taken by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and SASSA to ensure that grants are provided to persons with disabilities and older persons in a timely fashion and that such circumstances, as occurred yesterday, do not occur again in the future. The DSD should further hold those responsible accountable.
The Commission also calls on the Executive of government to take action and effectively address the recurring mistreatment of vulnerable people during payments of social grants. The latest occurrence is but one of many that point to significant shortfalls in the capacity of service providers to effectively provide social grants to the most vulnerable.
Over 5 million older persons and persons with disability are recipients of grants in South Africa. While the Commission appreciates and welcomes the recently announced increases, it notes that the grant amount is still not enough to alleviate the levels of poverty experienced by older persons and persons with disabilities, who are considered to be amongst the chronically poor, and who are often responsible for taking care of themselves in addition to many in their families who depend on them for survival.
Section 27 of the Constitution provides that everyone has the right to have access to social security and, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, to appropriate social assistance. The provision (or lack) of social grants has an impact on other significant human rights including food, clothing and housing, health and education amongst others.