Sassa Covid-19 R350 SRD grant
(Gallo Images)
  • Sassa has suspended 210,778 temporary disability grants after a series of extensions during 2020.
  • Frustrated beneficiaries must now reapply for medical assessments during the height of South Africa’s second wave of coronavirus infections.
  • But a R1.2 billion shortfall has dashed hopes of another extension and raised red flags around government’s ability to process payments to approved applicants.
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Temporary disability grant beneficiaries will not be paid, and are now rushing to secure the medical paperwork they'll need to reactive their payments – amid a burgeoning coronavirus crisis for the health sector and Alert Level 3 restrictions on movement.

The temporary disability grant, which provides financial assistance to over 200,000 South Africans who are unable to work, due to injury or illness, for between six and 12 months, is subject to a medical review.

Due to the hard lockdown implemented in March 2020, and the associated restrictions on personal movement, a ten-month extension was granted before medical reviews would be required again.

Now that extension is over.

“At the end of December 2020, Sassa suspended a total of 210,778 disability grants nationally, as the extended period for which they were awarded had expired,” the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) said in a statement this week.

The sudden suspension of grants has resulted in a dire backlog as those still unable to work due to disabilities rush to receive medical reviews.

In addition to healthcare facilities and medical practitioners being overwhelmed by coronavirus-related admissions, lockdown regulations urge South Africans to avoid large crowds. With extended curfew hours snubbing early-morning queues, thousands of desperate South Africans have descended on medical examiners in the hopes of having their suspended disability grants reactivated.

This problem is not limited to medical facilities.

“Affected citizens are requested to report to the nearest Sassa office, with a detailed referral report from their treating doctor, which confirms the impact of the medical condition or disability,” says the agency.

This in-person requirement, compounded by beneficiaries queuing outside offices for a host of other grant queries, has added immense strain to Sassa’s already embattled systems. It also presents a health and safety problem, with more resources required to enforce social distancing.

And while struggling to find available medical examiners and queuing outside Sassa offices presents a particular series of problems to potential beneficiaries, the agency’s lack of cash is listed as a primary reason for the suspension.

“To have continued payment of the grants until end March 2021 would have cost an additional R1.2 billion, which funds are not available,” said Sassa.

Questions about Sassa’s ability to process payments of beneficiaries who can secure medical reviews have now been directed to Parliament.

Sassa reserves the right to grant or deny any applications but dismissed applicants have 90 days in which to appeal.

“Government has failed to prepare for the upcoming flood of beneficiaries who will need to undergo their reassessments, thereby putting many vulnerable South Africans at risk of losing their much-needed disability grants in the coming weeks,” argued MP Bridget Masango, who has called for an urgent meeting with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development.

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