Namibia: Sassa Grant Recipients Bemoan Verbal Abuse

SOUTH African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant recipients at Walvis Bay are accusing the grants administrator of verbal abuse.

The pensioners say they are afraid of going to the Sassa office for inquiries and meetings, as the administrator, Isabel Fortuin, allegedly shouts at them.

The group receives a monthly grant following a bilateral agreement that was signed on 19 April 1994 by South Africa and Namibia, which binds South Africa to continue paying social grants to its citizens who lived at Walvis Bay at that time.

On Wednesday, the group showed up at their NamPost pay point as usual, but were told to go to the Sassa office to get letters, which they must present at Nampost, in order to get their money.

“Imagine taking a taxi from the location to NamPost in town, and being told that you have to go for a letter at Sassa. From there, you have to take a taxi back to NamPost. The other day, we were told to bring our parents’ birth certificates. We are so old. Where will we find our parents’ birth certificates? If you say something, she [Fortuin] will shout at you,” said 71-year-old *Nangi Thomas.

Another pensioner, Johanna Appolus, says when she came to register five years ago, she claims Fortuin was on the phone telling someone that “the f**** people do not deserve to get paid by two governments”.

“I really felt so bad. Before I started receiving the grant, I used to bring my late sister here. The woman still has the same attitude,” says Appolus.

*Anna May (68) says she has been a recipient for close to eight years, and has had to endure Fotuin’s alleged verbal abuse.

“She still shouts at us. We come here early in the morning and suffer from the cold and wind, and mostly we have to come back for about two more days because we are not all accommodated. She just locks the office and goes out to do her personal things. She shouts at us when we ask her something. She can at least treat us like human beings and talk to us politely,” she says.

Another pensioner, *Lucy Simeon, says a man collapsed on Wednesday as they waited for their money.

“Someone in the group offered him two bananas and a piece of cake. Is it surprising that we are fainting? Do we have to die in this queue before she starts to treat us like people? She just told us now that she has a dentist appointment. How can you leave so many old people standing here at such a time?” lamented Simeon.

Spokesperson of the group Tostao Imbili said the situation was getting out of hand.

“It is time to call her to order. People sit here from 08h00 to 18h00 whenever they are called to the office. There are many people and the process of updating files is long. She is the only one working here. She did not even bother to come out when an elderly man fainted,” he said.

Imbili also claims that Fortuin mainly ill-treats people from Kuisebmond and Narraville, while she speaks politely to white people. He says a delegation from Sassa is expected to come for a meeting this month, and that the elderly will bring up the issue. Fortuin yesterday told The Namibian she was heartbroken about the allegations.

“I have been going out of my way to help them since I started working 37 years ago. A few years ago, I even tried to help some get their South African identity documents, which was not part of my job. They come to my office pretending all is well, but when they leave here, I hear bad things about me,” she said.

Fortuin said she never treated them like animals, but sometimes asked them to be an example to younger people.

“These are over 500 people I handle alone, and they sometimes push each other, make noise, and act unruly, but I treat them like adults,” she said.

Her dentist appointment was booked a month ago, but she had to postpone it to attend to the pensioners, she said.

“Why do they not just tell me how they feel when we are sitting in the office so that I’m aware of it?” she asked.

Fortuin said she sometimes tries to obtain chairs from the community without much help, although the secretary of the mayor’s office delivers chairs on Thursday mornings.

*The names of the pensioners have been changed to protect their identities.

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