Doubt Over Sassa’s Capacity to Deliver COVID-19 Grant

Sassa. Image source: Cape Business News

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) may not be able to deliver the six-month coronavirus grant known as COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant, NGOs and academics warned.

Under the grant, jobless South Africans will each receive R350 monthly for six months.

Last week, Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, announced that the grant will be paid from the 15th of May.

The unemployed are expected to apply for the COVID-19 Grant by sending a WhatsApp message to 0600 123 456 and selecting Sassa or an email to

The department and Sassa are also finalising additional access channels and include SMS, self-help desks and an online application process.

However, in a soft launch last weekend, the coronavirus grant payout system crashed after 100,000 people applied for it via WhatsApp.

Sassa CEO Totsie Memela told the Sunday Times that she is confident the problems have been sorted out despite stating she “had sleepless nights worrying about payout systems being able to operate at capacity when special COVID-19 grants start next week.”

However, NGOs and academics monitoring the assistance system this week warned that the planned R350 grant is riddled with potential implementation holes.

They also told the Sunday Times that increasingly long payout queues and the postponing of grant pay dates could endanger the lives of millions.

Some TechFinancials readers have expressed their frustration at the Sassa registration process for the COVID-19 special grants.

“I applied for a distress fund of R350 but was never asked for banking details, what can I expect?” said one reader.

Another said: “If you don’t have a bank account and proof of residence what happens?”

“I want to apply for the unemployment social grant and that number is putting me somewhere I can’t find what I’m looking for?”

The embattled agency has a bold plan to alleviate the poverty of 7-million people through the government’s multibillion-rand COVID-19 fund.


How to Apply for the COVID-19 Grant?

Applications for the Special COVID-19 Social Relief Grant may be lodged by sending:

  • WhatsApp message to 0600 123 456 and selecting SASSA or
  • by sending an email to

“We are are still finalising additional access channels and including SMS, self-help desks and online application process,” said Zulu. “We will give information on these soon.”

For people with no access to technology, Sassa will use volunteers from NYDA, NDA, and community development workers to register them for the Special COVID-19 Social Relief Grant. For more read: Coronavirus: How to Apply for Coronavirus Special Grant


  1. SASSA have been spreading misinformation to the public regarding the application process. First they said, they have stop the Whatsapp application, then they say its open, but you must type in SASSA. Well, that number they give is the COvid-19 whatsapp line with covid-19 options, It have absolutely no “SASSA”option in the menu whatsoever, yet the media have also repeated this same error due to sassa not being capable of checking there systems properly.
    The whatsapp api is also not suited for the purpose of such an untertaking.
    It would of been faster if they simply develop a responsive online application with the details they want and link it to a database and have a back-end script run to use that database records to cross check with other databases.
    SO the excuses they been giving about its a new platform and all that is plain incompentency. Don’t they have qualified tech staff and developers who knows what they doing?
    ALso, private details need tgo be on secure database on a dedicated VPN server, etc.

    The email they gave have no automatic reply message to alert people that there application is being process or been received by the server etc.
    So there are a number of implementation loopholes which seems like common sense to any person who does problem solving and planning related work etc.

    Our government have a way of moving one step forward and 2 steps backwards. Lastly, R350 is insufficient in today’s SA economy, or what remains of it.
    Let’s hope some ray of light is at the end of this long tunnel.

  2. I want to apply for the unemployment distress grant and that number is not giving me what I want ever since it was saying Sassa is still busy looking at it. It will confirm when it will open my wory is that time is going by.

  3. i just need information for some unemployed people for the relief grant, who does not even have a phone to watssApp or email the Sassa office. what should these people do please. what personal information do they need, to appy .

  4. I am Mr Selvan Pillay
    I submitted application via what’sapp and Email dated 30April and 03 May 2020,respectively.

    No responses from either.

    Can you you assist me further please.

  5. I am a widow and have been trying every whatsapp number and email number that’s been given, to apply for the R350.. Unfortunately nothing seems to be working..

  6. I tried to apply for unemployment 350 sassa grant but the system is giving me what I’m not looking for what should i do?

  7. There’s no indication sent back to us to show if our aplications are being proceeded or not! If we meet the requirements or not after you’ve sent all the necessary docs or proof they asked via email. Its risky and scary because the thoughts i have is that i might have sent my documents to an email that might be scaming people.

  8. Desperately trying to apply for R350 . Via what’s app. Nothing . Any ideas when application available dont seem to be in operation.


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