SASSA has reported that a number of online services, aimed at assisting applicants and beneficiaries, are inaccessible due to a technical failure.

The announcement, issued by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) on Thursday evening, comes at a critical time for desperate citizens. The unique Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant, approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa to lighten the financial burden on the country’s unemployed during lockdown, has been marred by inconsistencies and delays.

SASSA, which has been tasked with managing the R350 SRD grant, has been bogged down by administrative failures resulting from an overwhelming application process. The grant, which was announced in April and effectively ratified in May, has only funded 2% of all applicants, causing widespread public frustration.

SASSA services offline, further frustrating applicants

Recent initiatives, including an online submission tracker and dedicated digital application platform, have been dealt consecutive technical blows, adding further strain to the backlog. On Thursday, SASSA issued a statement concerning the latest bout of digital downtime, saying:

“Apologies we are offline for the following services: Bank details upload, status checking on the Website, Web applications. Our technicians are working to resolve the problem. If you get this screen please ignore and try again tomorrow.”

The message was met with fierce criticism and condemnation, primarily by despondent applicants who, despite registering for the R350 SRD grant weeks earlier, had still not received any form of payment.

This latest technical glitch, which has impacted services to millions of vulnerable South Africans, follows a week of delayed grant payments and never-ending queues outside SASSA offices.

Delays and backlogs crippled faith in SASSA

SASSA CEO, Busisiwe Memela, argued that delays were related to the administrative vetting processes. Expanding on the figures, Memela said that SASSA had received 13 million enquiries or applications for the R350 SRD grant; of these, only 6.3 million were deemed to be valid.

Additionally, grants paid to the elderly and disabled have also been impacted. In an attempt to better service beneficiaries, SASSA reopened its offices following a protracted period of lockdown-induced dormancy. The agency, which has only allocated 30% staff capacity to assist beneficiaries, has been overwhelmed at its offices and collection points.

As a result, beneficiaries hoping to receive assistance have been forced to sleep outside SASSA offices and endure seemingly never-ending queues.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Shadow Minister of Social Development, Bridget Masango, has confirmed that a complaint has been lodged with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in this regard. Masango argues that SASSA’s incompetence has led to ‘inhumane queues’ and the degradation of dignity.

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Presh JM Reporter

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