You’ll struggle to find a scene more depressing than this. SAPS officers in the Western Cape have been criticised profusely – after they were seen using a water cannon on people stood in queues outside of a SASSA office on Friday. Almost all of those who stood in line were temporary disability grant recipients, harbouring some serious medical conditions.
SASSA grant applicants targeted by ‘heavy force’
The facility in Bellville has been overwhelmed in recent days, following SASSA’s decision to suspend the automatic rollout of the fleeting disability payments. The CEO of the organisation said that ‘no more money’ could be made available to keep this venture going, arguing that there have already been three extensions for the deadline.
This month, some 210 000 recipients were told they would have to apply in person at the SASSA offices to get their disability grants renewed. The decision has proved to be counter-intuitive to current COVID-19 protocols in force. SAPS patrolling the queues were worried by the lack of social distancing – and they embarked upon a heavy-handed response:
Watch: Water cannon fired at SASSA grant recipients
Police warn the SASSA recipients again. Water cannon subsequently used and sprayed again to enforce social distancing. pic.twitter.com/Hw5z8avm6n
— Athi Mtongana (@Artii_M) January 15, 2021
Ramaphosa’s government forces the most vulnerable amongst us to reapply for disability grants in the middle of a pandemic. And when they dutifully line up to reapply, his government opens fire on disabled people with water cannons. A revolting regime. https://t.co/qZq6GwRoUt
— Leon Schreiber (@Leon_Schreib) January 15, 2021
Lindiwe Zulu makes a curious cameo
Events took an even more bizarre turn when Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu arrived on the scene. After briefly addressing the snaking queues, she took refuge in a police van, and urged people to ‘practice social distancing’.
The ANC representative seemingly ignored the fact that water cannons had been turned on some of SA’s most vulnerable citizens. John Steenhuisen’s Tweet on the matter perhaps summed up the chaos perfectly.
“These citizens are actually her customers what is she so afraid of? Why does a minister have to address citizens from an armoured vehicle?”