Social grant recipients have complained that they have to wait for several hours in the long queues at the Verulam Post Office before they are attended to, mainly by only one cashier.

The beneficiaries claimed that the service from the SA Post Office, which took over the payment of social grants from Cash Payment Services, since October last year has been far from satisfactory.

They said they have to travel longer distances than they used to previously. Sizakele Nkosi, 62, of Waterloo, who suffers from osteoporosis commonly known as the porous bones disease, claimed that on 4 September she was at the post office at 4.30am, some two and half hours before it opened but was only attended to at about 3pm.

“I felt as though I was going to collapse and die, standing in the queue. I am ill. I needed the money to catch a taxi to Osindisweni Hospital to collect my medication but was unable to do so because it was too late. This is not the first time that I had to wait for hours in the queue at the post office before I was served. It is ridiculous that people, especially the frail and ill have to endure long queues at the Post Office ,” said Nkosi.
According to Nkosi, social grant beneficiaries first had to wait in a queue to collect cash slips before moving to another queue to collect their cash.

“Since October last year, I noticed that there was only one Post Office employee dispensing cash for people with SASSA cards. Many people in the queue were standing for a long time because there is not enough chairs. A number of pensioners had no choice but to sit on the floor,” she said.

Another grant recipient, Verashni Pillay, stricken with diabetes, said she was recently attended to after 2pm after joining the queue at 6am. “The queue snaked for some distance on the outside. There are no trees to seek refuge from the heat. Never once did any Post Office official speak to the frustrated people in the queue. I found out from the security guard that just one Post Office employee was making the cash payments. Even though I was sick, I had no choice but to wait for a long time in the queue before I was served.

“There appears to be no compassion from the Post Office management because the ill, elderly and disabled people are not given priority. It is important for diabetic patients to take their medication at prescribed times. Owing to the don’t care attitude of the management, I was only able to have my lunch around 2.30pm instead of 1pm,” said Pillay.

Pillay said that she had come at about 6am to the institution, complained about the heat outside and had to queue till 2pm. KwaZulu-Natal Post Office spokesperson, Nobuhle Njapha, said in her view the Verulam Post Office ‘ provided an excellent service to the pensioners and have a competent and committed team.’

Njapha said: “This branch pays an average of 200 grants for the first three working days of the month. The process for paying is that the beneficiary will first obtain a voucher (collection slip) and thereafter proceed to the cashier. There are two employees generating vouchers and a further two employees making payment. That is sufficient to process the payments.” She added that the length of the queue depended on the date of the month.

“Generally at opening time, the queues are always long because people queue long before the branch opens. But once payment starts, the queues move quickly and efficiently. The branch manager has made it his responsibility to manage the flow of the queue, to engage with the pensioners and also to assist the disabled, wheelchair bound and frail so that they can get attended to immediately. He also confirms that he is freely available to engage and assist were possible,” she said.

Njapha added that the beneficiaries could also use merchants or ATMs to withdraw cash, and swipe their cards for free at various supermarkets and retailers.

“Beneficiaries get three free cash withdrawals per month at supermarkets such as Shoprite, Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay, Boxer, and Spar,” said Njapha.