The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has launched an investigation into reports that a person died due to a heart attack at one of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) contact points.
This after lengthy and congested queues were witnessed last week, with hundreds of temporary disability grant beneficiaries, including some who slept outside Sassa offices across Cape Town.
Their grants lapsed last month and they had to reapply.
Police and law enforcement were called by Sassa to assist with crowd control and compliance at the Gugulethu, Bellville, and Eersterivier offices.
An outraged SAHRC head Chris Nissen condemned the use of a water cannon on beneficiaries outside the Bellville office on Friday.
“Police could have handled the situation of enforcing social distancing much better. To open up a water cannon on disabled and vulnerable people, that is not right, even under the worst circumstances.
’’These are poor people that during lockdown and Covid-19 have got nothing, and they depend on that grant. In desperation they queue there from 4 am and some sleep there,” said Nissen.
He said a meeting with Sassa regional executive manager Bandile Maqetuka was expected tomorrow to discuss the situation.
He said he was looking into reports of a person who died, and all mistreatment of any other grant applicants who queued at Sassa contact points.
“We will be probing what exactly transpired and see if there is any truth in what we have been told. We must also commend Black Sash because they’ve done a lot of work around things such as human rights, defenders, standing up for our people there.
’’The problem is that this is not the first time something like this happened.
“Last year, during the winter season, people were sleeping outside in Khayelitsha. We thought it was addressed, but we see it was not.
’’People are just playing political games while the vulnerable are suffering,” said Nissen.
He said, if Sassa cannot come to an agreement with the local government to provide adequate facilities to allow for sufficient social distancing, then it must enter into talks with churches, as some have agreed to assist with church halls.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said:“Nobody would ever want to use water cannons just for the sake of it. The bottom line is that the situation was really getting out of hand and people were refusing to social distance and queue.”
The Black Sash said police deploying the use of force in the presence of Zulu was a clear indication that she has lost control of the situation.
The organization called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene.
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