Thu, 28 May 2020

Joshua Matshidiso, 68, had both legs amputated due to an infection in 2010. On Monday 30 March, he joined other social grant beneficiaries who rose before sunrise to collect their grants at a nearby retailer pay point in Dunoon, Milnerton, Cape Town.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) had made provision to enable grant beneficiaries to access their funds during the nationwide lockdown to disrupt the spread of Covid-19, GroundUp reports.

Matshidiso arrived at the Dunoon cash payout point at 09:00 and by 11:25 had collected his grant and bought a few essential items - eggs, milk and mielie meal. He wheeled himself to his RDP house about 2km from the Sassa pay point. He said with the pandemic around, he would not dare risk asking someone to push his wheelchair.

"I am trying to keep myself away from the crowds," Matshidiso said. He applauded the service at the Sassa payout point, saying the social distancing rule was observed throughout the process.

But outside, GroundUp saw many people queuing with no space between them. Some were waiting their turn to buy essentials and some to cash out their grants. Preference was being given to the elderly and disabled.

In Dunoon, people queue closely together to get their social grants. (Peter Luhanga, GroundUp)

Sidney Tshibonza, 40, lives in Site 5 informal settlement opposite Dunoon. He lost the use of both his legs in 2016 after an accident at work and also uses a wheelchair. He arrived at the Sassa pay point and was helped in 30 minutes. After buying essentials he wheeled himself back to his one-room shack.

In Dunoon and surrounding informal settlements, few taxis were on the road, but when GroundUp visited, the streets were still full of residents.

Small groups of people were sharing a bottle of alcohol and also passing around a cigarette. Alcohol prices have shot up. A 750ml beer, which normally costs R22, was being sold for R35.

In Siyahlala informal settlement, behind Dunoon on the edge of a Transnet railway line, residents were living as normal.

When GroundUp asked about Covid-19, some said they did not know what it was, though they had heard about the national lockdown from neighbours.

Here more than 1 000 families used one communal tap and there were no toilets, according to community leader Keanetse Lesesa who was washing her clothes at the tap. Residents crossed the railway line to relieve themselves, she said.

A community leader says there is one communal tap for 1 000 families in the Siyahlala informal settlement. (Peter Luhanga, GroundUp)

Lesesa added the lockdown was not working in the settlement. "We can't stay indoors when we have no toilets. Our tap is outside. We are overcrowded."

She said residents emptied buckets full of faeces and urine at the tap and rinsed them. A foul stench wafted up around the communal tap from the accumulating filth.

Many residents here were unemployed, said Babalwa Ntese, and the lockdown made it difficult for them to look for casual jobs. She added her child and many other children depended on the school feeding scheme and she did not know what would happen now that schools were closed.

"We are going to suffer a lot. We need help. We need food, hand sanitisers. We have nothing," she said.

No one in the overcrowded settlement was adhering to any social distancing rules and a group of young children were playing between the shacks.

Earlier along Mnandi Street in Dunoon, the police were seen jumping out of police vans, armed with sjamboks, chasing people seen drinking alcohol on the side of the road.

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