In a distressing turn of events, a Cape Town pensioner, Johanna Gryzenhout, found herself hospitalized after suffering a heart attack while waiting in line to collect her Social Assistance (Sassa) grant. The cause of her immense stress? She had yet to receive her pension payment, a lifeline she depended on to manage her chronic health condition.
The Troubling Postbank “Glitch”
The source of Gryzenhout’s woes traces back to a system “glitch” that affected over 600,000 Sassa grant recipients. For these individuals, the glitch translated into either receiving only partial payments or, in some cases, no money at all. While Postbank, responsible for managing these payments, claimed to have resolved the issue, the reality on the ground was far from comforting.
A Desperate Quest for Funds
Johanna Gryzenhout, like many other desperate grant recipients, stood in line, hoping to find her R2,090 grant deposited into her account. She recounted the anxiety and disappointment she felt each time her attempts to access her funds yielded no results. As a chronic heart patient, she relied heavily on this money to cover medication costs not covered by her medical aid.
“I felt sick to my stomach because I had relied so much on this money because I’m a chronic heart patient and needed to pay for parts of my medication that my medical aid does not cover. I haven’t been able to get my medication this month,” said Gryzenhout.
The Heart Attack and Hospitalization
The stress of the situation took a severe toll on Johanna Gryzenhout. As she left the queue that fateful day, she suddenly became dizzy and experienced a rush of pain in her chest. The pain was so excruciating that she feared she might pass out. Fortunately, she was rushed to Netcare Kuils River Hospital in time, where doctors diagnosed her with a heart attack. They attributed her condition to a combination of immense stress, anxiety, and the inability to access her medication.
A Cry for Help
In her emotional state, Gryzenhout lamented how Sassa had treated elderly citizens like herself. “All that stress and anxiety of waiting for my money to come was hurting my body. I already suffered a heart attack many years ago and didn’t think I would have another one. I’m so sad, hurt, and angry that Sassa treated us elderly like this,” she expressed.
Postbank spokesperson Bongani Diako attempted to reassure the public, stating that, according to their records, all outstanding Sassa grant payments had been made to those affected by the system glitch in early September. He further explained that the process of reversing funds into affected beneficiaries’ accounts had been successfully completed, allowing many Sassa gold card beneficiaries to access their money through ATMs and retailers.
However, Diako also noted that some individuals had attempted to defraud the bank by seeking double payments, a behavior that only clogged the system and hindered genuine assistance. These fraudulent activities would be reported to law enforcement agencies.
A Glimpse of Hope
As Johanna Gryzenhout continued to recover in the hospital, she held onto the hope that her Sassa money would be available for collection upon her discharge. “I’m a pensioner, and I only rely on this money. I haven’t bought food and electricity or paid my bills since the beginning of the month,” she shared.
Her situation drew the attention of Ward Councillor Ebrahim Sawant, who offered to provide her with food support until her funds became accessible. Gryzenhout, who lives alone and has limited family support, emphasized that this ordeal should never have happened.
Calls for Accountability
Ebrahim Sawant, echoing the sentiments of many, expressed his dismay at how Sassa had treated pensioners, calling it “disgraceful.” Thousands of elderly individuals, like Gryzenhout, found themselves in dire straits due to the apparent incompetence of the system.
Evashnee Naidoo, the Black Sash regional manager, highlighted the fear gripping beneficiaries who were now attempting to switch to commercial banks to receive their grants. She called on Sassa to work collaboratively with organizations like Black Sash to provide clear plans and guidance, aiming to alleviate the concerns of beneficiaries.
In the midst of this troubling situation, the plight of Johanna Gryzenhout serves as a poignant reminder of the real-life consequences of administrative failures in social assistance programs. It is a call to action for authorities to ensure that such vital lifelines reach those in need without fail.