Human rights organisation Black Sash has urged the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to extend disability grants and take urgent steps to process applications.
Sections 24 through 29 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution recognise the socio-economic rights of citizens, including the right to social security.
The disability grants are designed to assist citizens who are medically unfit for work.
More than 200,000 grants, which had been extended for six months, lapsed on 31 December and beneficiaries, according to local media, have been queueing outside SASSA offices to renew them.
SASSA, in a statement, said it could not extend the grants for another three months because it would cost R1.2 billion.
‘The cost of continuing to pay these grants totalled in excess of R1.5 billion. To have continued payment of the grants until end March 2021 would have cost an additional R1.2 billion, which funds are not available’, the statement read.
However, Black Sash has faulted the SASSA claims.
The organisation argued that the Department of Social Development and SASSA budgeted R24.4 billion for disability grants and still had R12.9 billion left in October.
‘It is highly unlikely that all these funds would have been spent between November and December 2020’, it noted.
‘SASSA has the funding to extend the temporary Disability Grants for at least three months, until March 2021.
‘This will present SASSA with a window of opportunity to resolve their system and capacity challenges to deal with renewals for the lapsed and new disability grant applications safely and timeously without infringing on the right to social security’.
SASSA said it had proposed a ten-point plan to address the backlog, including a booking system for screening and assessment, phone calls to beneficiaries, bringing in additional doctors and setting up new assessment sites, better queue management and more staff.
But Black Sash said, ‘It is unclear at this stage how effectively and safely SASSA will process lapsed and new disability applications during this resurgence of a more potent strain of Covid-19 and with reduced capacity to perform medical assessments’.
The government, according to the constitution, is obligated to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of the socio-economic rights of South Africans.
Photo source: Buziwe Nocuze/GroundUp