Despicable social grant thieves must be tracked down and jailed

Image: 123RF/Olivier Le Moal

It is a terrible indictment on our country that the most vulnerable have become easy prey for fraudsters, who think nothing of stealing, by various means, the small grants they rely on to survive.

Today, we report on three young people in the Bay who found their IDs had been purloined by the unscrupulous to steal the meagre Social Relief of Distress Grant they were hoping to apply for. 

The grant, implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic, is paid out monthly to the poor and destitute who, generally, have nothing but this bit of money to live on.

The recipients number between seven- and eight-million at any given time — which alone should give us all pause for thought.

The fraudsters use a variety of methods, one of them targeting new applicants who have just turned 18.

These first-time applicants for the grant, which was raised from R350 to R370 at the beginning of April, are increasingly running into roadblocks when they apply as they find that their ID numbers have already been used to access the grant. 

One young Bay woman was previously a Sassa beneficiary, but the grant was stopped when she turned 18 and she was hoping the SRD grant would replace some of what she had lost.

She applied for her ID in December and then for the SRD grant in February, but found that her account was already active.

“I’m in matric and ... I could use that money to buy toiletries, sanitary towels, pay for study camps and other things that are needed.”

Two other 18-year-olds had similar experiences.

And they all had the same question: “Where are they getting our ID numbers from?” 

That is a good question and one that must be answered.

Shamefully, nearly 6,000 civil servants have been implicated in SRD fraud, according to social development minister Lindiwe Zulu, and nearly 34,000 in other social grants fraud.

The department had also paid out R140m to 75,000 deceased beneficiaries over the past three financial years, she said in reply to a parliamentary question earlier this year.

These are staggering figures.

The social grants fraud needs to be tackled urgently — the database scoured and cleared of all illegal recipients, fraud cases properly investigated and the culprits jailed if we ever hope to end this scourge. 

It is disturbing that while the poorest of the poor are being robbed of what is due to them, as meagre as it is, the soulless thieves mostly seem to walk away scot-free.



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