South Africa Government

09/18/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/18/2023 06:37

MEC Sharna Fernandez open letter to Minister Lindiwe Zulu

Open letter to Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development

It is with a great sense of frustration and deep responsibility that I am writing this open letter to you. You and I occupy positions of responsibility to the most vulnerable in our province and country. Previous correspondence to yourself has either not been acknowledged or that which you have responded to was mostly filled with empty promises of meetings that have never materialised.

For more than a week the most vulnerable citizens of our country have been struggling to access their social assistance grants. About 700 000 beneficiaries could not withdraw their money following Post Bank's upgrade on 6 September 2023 which led to a myriad of problems, resulting in the delayed and/or non-payment of these much-needed grants.

My office has been inundated with complaints and desperate cries from these beneficiaries. As a collaborative government, we were hoping to receive answers following the press conference you were a part of on Friday,15 September 2023, however, no clear direction, nor deadline to an end of this crisis has been given. In fact, no form of accountability from you was evident at this press conference at all. As always, you blame others for the failures that you are responsible for. There was no hope given to the thousands of vulnerable people who had to face another weekend without their grant money.

Let me remind you, Minister, that you are charged in terms of legislation with Social Relief of Distress, not issues related to Post Bank. Citizens have a contract with SASSA, which reports to you.

My letter to you in December 2022 detailing the challenges experienced with Post Bank and requesting to meet with you and the CEO of SASSA, Ms Memela-Khambula, was fobbed off to Western Cape SASSA and Post Bank, who did, in fact, meet with me. Your absence at this meeting and your lack of accountability were yet again evident.

The impact of the ongoing failures at SASSA has worsened since then.

After receiving pleas from the public, I took the time to visit a few SASSA offices last week. I was deeply affected by the sight of the elderly, frail, and even babies accompanying their mothers in the cold and treacherous Cape Town weather who queued in the vain hope of drawing their much-needed grant money for food, paraffin, and nappies for their infants. In Gatesville, grant beneficiaries were told to come back this week and that there will hopefully be some money in their bank accounts - clearly the "technical glitch" referred to during your press conference has not been resolved.

It would be remiss of me to not thank and commend the Western Cape Provincial SASSA team for availing themselves to meet with me and our departmental leadership team to work together in assisting the citizens of the Western Cape in seeking collaborative ways to provide sustainable and dignified access to the most basic resources for these often marginalised individuals. It is unfortunate that SASSA Western Cape is also dependent on your department for frequent updates and communication, which is severely lacking.

I am appalled by your callous disregard for our fellow South Africans. My sentiments are publicly echoed by the many citizens not receiving their grants. To top it all, your own deputy minister has now voiced her despair on social media, expressing her dissatisfaction and lack of communication within the National Department of Social Development regarding grant payments. The level of dysfunction in your department has a direct impact on the most vulnerable in our country.

To add insult to injury, amid this polycrisis in social development, the country then finds out through the media that 6 million citizens who applied for the R350 grant have not received it during the past year, which resulted in R15 billion having to be returned to National Treasury.

You have the stewardship of one of the most important government departments. It is your responsibility to act and if you do not accept that responsibility, then you should resign.

Media Enquiries:
Ananda Nel - Head of Ministry
Office of MEC Sharna Fernandez
Department of Social Development
Tel: (021) 483 3858
E-mail: [email protected](link sends e-mail)