CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 12: People with face
People are seen at a South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) building in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Nardus Engelbrecht)
  • More than 16 million applicants whose Social Relief of Distress grants were rejected have just three months left to appeal.
  • The R350 grant, which has been marred by administrative delays, will officially end on 31 January 2021.
  • While applicants search for answers, Sassa says that there is “no set turnaround time for the outcome of appeals”.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africans who have been denied access to the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant must lodge an appeal before 28 February 2021 to stand a chance of receiving backdated financial assistance.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) recently confirmed that the SRD grant, which has been marred by administrative blunders and technical glitches, would come to an end in January 2021. To date, almost 19.8 million SRD payments have been made to mitigate the pandemic’s devastating financial impact on vulnerable citizens.

Since the grant’s formation in May, more than 16.4 million applicants have been denied, with only 60,000 appeals confirmed by Sassa. After being met with a barrage of criticism, with applicants citing unfair rejections, Sassa created and extended an appeal process which sought to examine all cases on an individual basis.

“Anyone who doesn't lodge an appeal will not be reconsidered as we don't have funds to reconsider every declined case,” said Sassa in response to the grant’s extension as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November.

On 4 December 2020, Sassa confirmed a deadline for the appeal process, noting that any outstanding complaints would need to be finalised before March 2021. “Appeals for applications made during the extension period, between November 2020 and January 2021 should be lodged on or before 28 February 2021,” noted Sassa in a public statement.

The welfare agency urged applicants who had already lodged appeals not to reapply as the duplicate queries would add further strain to the platform.

But despondent applicants, some who lodged appeals with Sassa since the process was launched in July, argue that receiving backdated pay has been complicated by ongoing delays. Unsuccessful applicants cite Sassa’s own internal mechanisms – including registering IRP5 tax certificates, confirming additional income sources and identification reviews– as deeply flawed.

“There are various reasons to why some applications have been denied,” Sassa explained to applicants’ queries on social media. “If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your application, you have the right to appeal, as per the statement.”

Additionally, Sassa has refused to provide clarity on the timeline concerning outstanding appeals. “There is no set turnaround time for the outcome of appeals,” it said.

Despite facing fierce criticism, Sassa has defended its rigorous and time-consuming vetting process, citing a recent report by the Auditor General (AG) of South Africa as cause for concern. An investigative report tabled by the AG in September, revealed that approximately 30,000 beneficiaries who received an SRD grant were either government employees or were benefiting from other social security programmes.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu recently revealed that 1,500 City of Johannesburg employees had managed to defraud the SRD fund.

Rejected applicants can lodge an appeal by registering on Sassa’s online portal or by emailing covid19appeals@sassa.gov.za.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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