As of this afternoon, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases sits as 1353, which is an increase of 46, according to Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize. Of this number, 633 are from Gauteng while 325 are from the Western Cape, 179 from KwaZulu-Natal, 74 from the Free State, eight from the North West, 12 from Mpumalanga, 14 from Limpopo, 12 from the Eastern Cape, six from the Northern Cape and there are unallocated cases.
While Minister Mkhize indicates that the rate of increase is lower than the rate expected, the vulnerable groups in South Africa remain at risk of contracting the virus. Of the 5 reported deaths, 2 have been elderly citizens and a 76 year old has been raped by criminals posing as army officials.
The most vulnerable in our society remain vulnerable in the midst of this pandemic, despite the sacrifices they have made.
According to McKinsey, MGI research indicates that nearly 79 million Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) globally have spurred economic growth while at the same time spending more than they have saved and as a result, they have accumulated unprecedented levels of debt.
In South Africa this Is arguably due our historical injustices which have severely compromised the ability of this generation and generations in similar age groups alike to aptly afford the cost of a better standard of living. Unfortunately, that has carried with it, a degree of debt that has left the elderly overburdened with the dual responsibility of paying the debt back and often-times supporting generations of grandchildren and great grandchildren, all on the stipend of their social grants issued by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).
Since Monday 30 March 2020, the elderly have stood in line, waiting to receive their grant payments. While some lines moved smoothly in some areas, in others pensioners were made to que endlessly.
While the Department of Social Development has been paying grants earlier than usual to reduce the number of people queuing in order to curb the spread of the pandemic, this has not yet played out as anticipated.
Pensioners have been flocking to pay-points and a number of glitches have occurred alongside a lack of requisite policing which turned what should have been a co-ordinated process into an undignified ordeal. Three fatalities of pensioners who had been standing in lines all day occurred in Cape Town, Soweto and Hammersdale (KZN) respectively.
One of the glitches included insufficient funds available for withdrawals. Sassa indicated that some of its pay points in the Western Cape ran out of money because some beneficiaries who usually withdrew cash from ATM’s decided to go to the post office. The insufficient funds, compounded by the standard long ques made social and physical distancing almost impossible for these vulnerable members of society.
According to Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, two million transactions totalling R3.7 billion were processed through the Sassa card on Monday. Earlier today, many pensioners lined up from the early morning in order to retrieve funds they could not access yesterday.
At the Social Cluster media briefing held today in Pretoria, Minister Zulu said, “We miscalculated the amount of money that would be drawn…as a Minister, I am not here to hang anyone out to dry, I take full responsibility for it.”
One wonders if long-standing inefficiencies concerning grant collections and other social challenges alike could not have been solved before the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to cripple the system.
Earlier, Zulu together with MEC for Social Development Panyaza Lusufi visited several social grant payment points across Pretoria, in order to monitor the payment of grants. While Zulu’s efforts and ownership of the major glitch is noteworthy, with 17 days to go of the 21-day national lockdown, there is still much work needed to be done to in order to safeguard the elderly in as dignified a way as possible.