Minister Fernandez requests greater collaboration between National, Provincial Government and SASSA

South Africa is facing an unprecedented crisis. The coronvirus pandemic is not only a threat to the lives of many people, but also to their livelihoods.

It is our most vulnerable communities who are feeling the impact of the lockdown and its consequences. Many communities across South Africa have no means to put food on the table and we are now facing a massive humanitarian challenge.

Yesterday, we started to see this impact here in the Western Cape, when several grocery stores were looted, and unrest ensued following food parcel distribution in Mitchell’s Plain.

While the distribution of these food parcels was not done by the Western Cape Department of Social Development, it does demonstrate the frustration and desperation of many people. It also indicates that there is persistent misinformation that has been circulated about food parcels.

It is important to again clarify the details of the Western Cape Department of Social Development’s efforts to assist the most vulnerable in our province through an emergency initiative during the lockdown that goes beyond our usual interventions. 

Firstly, it is important to note that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) remains the lead agency charged with social support to the poor  in terms of the Social Assistance Act. This legislative mandate covers food parcels and vouchers.

The SASSA offices were closed by the directive of Minister Zulu on 30 March 2020 as part of the lock-down. While we understand that this was done to support the lockdown, we believe that this decision needs to revisited. It is our opinion that these offices be should be re-opened as an essential service to the poor and so that SASSA can fully function and execute its mandate fully.

This should be done in full accordance with proper good hygiene and physical distancing practises, as shown possible with other essential services during this time.

I would like to warmly welcome the news that the National Department of Social Development has indicated that it will be looking to provide additional funds from its budget, and the Solidarity Fund, to assist provinces with more food parcels. These funds will go directly from National DSD to NGOs in the province.

Indeed, we need greater collaboration between all spheres of government and SASSA in responding to this massive challenge.

In terms of the Western Cape Government’s emergency lockdown nutrition programme, the Western Cape Department of Social Development has made additional R35 million available for food relief programmes from Provincial Treasury allocations, to widen our existing nutrition safety net. 

As part of this effort, 50 000 food parcels will be provided once-off to support a family of four for one month during the lockdown and is based on set criteria. This ensures that this limited number of parcels reach the most vulnerable people.

The qualifying criteria includes:

  • Households affected by Covid-19 infections in the following instances:
    -   A member/s of the family who tested positive for the virus and are in quarantine in their homes.
    -   A household where a member of the family who tested positive for the virus and who have insufficient means to sustain themselves during the lockdown period.
  • A person who is on medication or who suffers from a chronic illness and have insufficient means to sustain themselves and was assessed and referred by a local clinic or registered health practitioner.
  • A person and their household who have insufficient means to sustain themselves during the lockdown period who was referred by a registered humanitarian relief agency, registered NPO or a municipal manager, and assessed by DSD. In this instance, persons not yet in receipt of SASSA grants, including the elderly, child headed houses, grant awaiting beneficiaries will be prioritised.

What is the process?

Requests that are sent through from a call centre, municipal manager, humanitarian relief agency, or registered NPO are routed to DSD social workers.

This information is added to a central DSD database, followed by a telephonic assessment by one of our social workers, and screening of the person’s ID against SASSA’s database to check whether the person is an existing grant or food recipient from SASSA.

Once a prospective beneficiary is confirmed as meeting the criteria, they are then contacted by the Department, and given details of when delivery will take place. This process is followed to ensure the most vulnerable can receive this limited resource.

Thank you to NGOs, volunteers and donors

I also wish to remind the public that our Department is not the only organisation working on food relief. There are a number of NGOs, private sector donors, volunteers etc. which have come forward to assist communities independently, of government. We wish to thank all of those organisations, donors and volunteers, who have stepped up to give life to the whole of society approach.

We are looking for further support in our effort to help those who are vulnerable across our communities. If you are able to donate any food or other support, please contact service@westerncape.gov.za

I would like to thank all our service workers, and particularly our social work professionals and all support staff, who are out there every day, working hard to ensure services to the most vulnerable continue.

I also wish to thank each and every resident, who continues to follow the rules of the lockdown thereby helping us in our fight to stop the spread.

We urge the public to access credible information on https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/coronavirus

For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below:
https://www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/social-development