On the eve of celebrating Freedom Day, the revelations about the shocking treatment of defenceless women at the area office of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) in Willowvale is a dreadful indicator of the sorry state of Social Development in the Eastern Cape. What does freedom mean to people for whom it is a dire struggle to get a social grant?

Upon visiting the office this week, I found scores of elderly women who had spent the previous night sleeping on the ground, out in the cold in fort of the Sassa office because the staff were unable to process all the payouts. To make matters worse, these defenceless women were forced to sleep outside the perimeter fence. I was told that this is “normal” practice and happens regularly.

The purpose of social grants is part of the government’s mandate to decrease poverty and ensure the well-being of the citizens of the Eastern Cape. However, the treatment of these grant recipients is not only contrary to the dream of a better life for all, it is also inhumane and undignified.

The DA calls upon the Eastern Cape MEC for Social Development, Nonkosi Mvana, for urgent liaison with her national counterpart to ensure that the Sassa area office in Willowvale is sufficiently staffed and provided with proper equipment. It is equally unfair towards the Sassa-officials to work under these conditions, as it is towards the grant recipients.

I have been complaining about the problems at that office since before Sassa took over the function of grant payments from the provincial department.

In many communities officials have to do with limited resources. In Willowvale the Sassa officials must at least come up with a plan, such as a schedule whereby they service certain wards on certain days, and make sure that the community is made aware of the arrangements.

Treating people like animals for the sake of a government handout is unacceptable. Our people deserve better.

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