This week millions of jobless South Africans will begin receiving relief grants of R350 each to help them cope with the lockdown.
The temporary-relief grant will perhaps give an accurate figure of the disputed unemployment rate in the country.
Government, unions and employment agencies have varying estimates of the size of the unemployed – anywhere between 5 and 15 million.
They, however, all agree the problem is most acute among young people.
Stats SA reported that South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 0,1 of a percentage point to 29,1% in Q3 of 2019.
The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has, in the past, struggled to pay other grant recipients. The question is, will Sassa cope with the expected millions of unemployment grant applications?
Last week at the soft launch, the Sassa’s COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant payout system crashed after only 100,000 people lodged their applications via WhatsApp.
Earlier this month, Sassa, which issues grants to about 17 million beneficiaries, experienced what it described as a “technical glitch.”
Some recipients were overpaid while others went home empty-handed.
Sassa advised clients to leave the extra payments in their account so that banks could reverse the payments. Those who withdrew the excess cash would not be paid in June, warned the agency.
We’re likely to see more technical glitches the moment the Sassa’s COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant payout system is open for the unemployed this week.
Your whatsapp is not responding, what’s exactly going on here? That’s not what Lindiwe zulu said, she said 12:00 everything will be fine for one to apply
— Siya k khumalo (@rea_siya) May 11, 2020
Please explain what nonsense is this below? pic.twitter.com/1tZoTfXqZ5
— MJ (@moja_job) May 11, 2020
Black Sash, which monitors the social-grant payment cycle, claims that the government hopes to be able to provide the temporary-relief grant to 2 million to 5 million people, but the NGO has estimated that about 15-million people will be applying.
Sassa lacks the technical infrastructure to deal with these applications, Black Sash warned.
Last week, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, announced the relief grants for the jobless will be paid from the 15 May.
Sassa has a difficult task ahead considering that its payout system buckled under pressure after only 100, 000 applications.
The biggest problem is that Sassa and the social development ministry are both failing to provide effective communication about the coronavirus grant.
The past few weeks under lockdown have revealed that millions of poor South Africans are going hungry.
Frustration among the jobless is growing day by day.
Without assurances from the authorities that they will indeed get the much-anticipated R350 relief, it looks like a wing and a prayer for millions of jobless South Africans.