(By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)
- In the town of Dutywa people waiting for their Covid-19 relief grants said if they pay a R50 bribe they get served first.
- Some people had been waiting and sleeping outside the post office, some nights in the rain, for days.
- Women crying of hunger and desperation said that without the grant they didn’t have money to get home.
Ncediswa Saki was one of more that 60 people sleeping outside the Post Office on a rainy Thursday in the small town of Dutywa, Eastern Cape.
They have been struggling to access their Social Relief of Distress (SRD) money, known as the Covid-19 grant. Saki said she had been there since Tuesday.
She was sitting on top of an old 20-litre bucket, not wearing shoes. Her left leg and foot was swollen. She said it was because she had stood too long.
People told GroundUp that in order to get served first, one had to pay a R50 bribe, apparently to a post office official standing with a security guard at the gate.
“This is something I’ve been witnessing since I got here,” said Saki.
GroundUp saw a person who paid the bribe being told they could go home and come back the following day and go straight to the gate
The man who took the bribe fled when he saw we had noticed.
Those who don’t pay say they have to sleep outside. Some said they had been there since Monday and their names were on a waiting list.
They said sometimes the post office also ran out of cash and it takes hours before money arrives again.
Saki along with others came from Gatyane, 30km away. Without their grant money they can’t pay the return fare of R110.
“I had to beg a taxi driver for a lift. I promised him I will pay when I get the R350. He is now expecting his money, I cannot ask him to take me home, that is why I’m planning to sleep here at least until Saturday,” she said. It was the second month this had happened to her.
At 10pm on Thursday night, some in the queue were crying.
“I have not eaten anything since the morning. Yesterday I only ate two slices of bread. I got them from this woman next to me. Today, she is struggling just like me. I think she only bought two sweets today,” said Saki.
Nokhwezi Mendu, who had been sleeping outside since Monday, said, “We normally sleep at the gate of the post office but today it is raining. That is why we are here.”
They were sleeping on cardboard on a cement slab. Some didn’t have blankets.
“At 3am we will start queueing in front of the post office, raining or not,” said Mendu. Her clothes were wet from the rain.
She also said she had seen post office officials and security guards taking bribes.
“I can’t face my [three] grandchildren because they are hoping that I will come back with food. As I’m sleeping here my heart is in pain because I do not know who is looking after them. I’m only hoping that neighbours will assist. If they don’t, that will mean they have been sleeping with an empty stomach since Monday.” Mendu was struggling to hold back her tears.
Mzondeleli Vonyo admitted to paying the R50 bribe last month and getting served quickly. “This month I don’t have the money,” he said.
“On that list with our names they told us that they are still assisting people who were here last week Thursday,” he said.
Mohamed Yaseen, acting regional manager of the Post Office in the Eastern Cape, said the post office had taken up the issue of late cash deliveries with the supplier, and referred GroundUp to SASSA. He did not respond to the bribery allegations.
Questions sent to SASSA spokespersons Luzuko Qina have still not been answered.
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