Disability, Desperation and the Water Cannon
In early January 2021, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), which falls under the Department of Social Development, announced that it had suspended 210 778 temporary disability grants (after a series of extensions during 2020 lockdown) that lapsed at the end of 2020. Frustrated and increasingly desperate beneficiaries were told to reapply for medical assessments during the height of the second wave of coronavirus infections. The temporary disability grant, which provides financial assistance and food security to over 200 000 South Africans who are unable to work due to injury or illness, for between six and 12 months, is subject to a medical review. This means that applicants need to be evaluated by a SASSA-contracted medical doctor to determine whether or not they continue to qualify for the grant. SASSA claimed that it did not have the necessary funds to finance further extensions, and lacked the capacity to deal with the high number of medical reviews.