The DA wants social development minister Lindiwe Zulu held accountable in parliament for the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants debacle which has seen scores of beneficiaries endure long lines to renew their applications at Sassa offices.

The agency suspended over 200,000 temporary disability grants after it issued the last official payments on December 31.

The grant benefits South Africans who cannot work due to injury or illness. Beneficiaries are required to produce medical reports which confirm the impact of the disability or illness, to continue grant payments. This prerequisite was suspended early last year due to the hard lockdown.

On Wednesday, the DA said that it had written to Mondli Gungubele, chairperson of the portfolio committee of social development to request Zulu’s appearance before parliament.

It said the department should have either recruited more doctors to its system to help beneficiaries with their reassessments and reapplications or extend payments beyond December.

“The DA appealed to the department and Sassa on numerous occasions to prioritise getting more doctors into the system so that the backlogs in assessments of disability grant cases can be addressed speedily.

“We also asked for an extension of the expiring grants until March 2021, to avoid a crisis, to avoid unnecessarily long queues such as those seen on Tuesday, and to allow the affected beneficiaries to complete their reassessments timeously — regrettably, our requests did not yield the desired outcome,” said the DA.

Sassa CEO, Busisiwe Memela said the extension until March would have cost the agency an additional R1.2bn, which the agency does not have.

The DA said the long queues seen at Sassa offices across the country could potentially become Covid-19 superspreaders as there are no safety protocols in place.

“The massive queues at Sassa offices are potential Covid-19 superspreaders and Minister Zulu must take full responsibility for how all of this has unfolded. It is as a consequence of the DSD’s inability to plan that thousands of SA’s most vulnerable citizens are at risk,” said the DA.