- At the main post office in Mthatha, self-proclaimed “bailiffs” charge people R 50-100 for being at the front of the queue.
- Those who refuse to pay say they are threatened and have to go to the end of the queue.
- The “bailiffs” say they provide a useful service and need to feed their families.
People who go to Mthatha’s main post office to collect their “Covid” Social Relief for Distress (SRD) grants, pay between R50 and R100 of their R350 grant to jump to the front of the queue.
Grant recipients say that security guards and a group of self-proclaimed residents, calling themselves the R350 bosses, are selling the first 100 slots to latecomers. People in the queue who oppose are threatened with sjamboks and knobkerries.
The other two closest post offices, BT Ngebs and Mthatha Northcrest, only serve 80 people a day and have no “bailiffs.”
On three separate days, GroundUp encountered queues snaking around the main post office. Most of those at the front had paid to be there. Sheriffs wait outside the front door to collect their share of the R350 grant.
Those who refuse to buy space, like Siyamcela Honono from Sibangweni, say they are under threat. On Friday of last week, Honono arrived at 5 am, Honono waiting behind more than 200 people in front of him, many of whom had paid.
He said that every penny of his grant means a lot to him.
“If the other two post offices were serving more people a day, we would not be paying these bribes,” he said.
Micco Lutshiti, from Ngangelizwe, said: “I got here at 6am and about 150 spaces were sold before me.”
He said that a “bailiff” will simply tell a person that “you have 15 or 20 spaces in front of you that are reserved for your clients, and no one argues with them.”
Mongezi Mayo, president of the R350 queue ‘marshals’, said: “We have been organizing the queue since these grants were introduced. We were helping the police and soldiers enforce social distancing. At that time we slept here because we competed with amapara [drug users] they were also selling the space for R50 “.
“But then we realized that amapara was stealing from the beneficiaries after collecting their grants. So we decided to band together and become the tail marshals to earn a living and protect the people of amapara. In total we are 25, including eight women, “he said.
“We are not forcing anyone to pay the money. But we are creating jobs for ourselves. ”
Alfred Hlezeni from Mqanduli said: “The beneficiaries pass our numbers on to each other, especially those who live too far from Mthatha. I even provide room and board for them if they are too late and the post office cannot help them. But I only charge R50 for a space. For those whose grants have not been processed, we even help with the taxi fare and do not charge them if their money is not available. ”
Nomawethu Siba said that he takes home between R150 and R200 a day. “Each member of our group cannot sell more than four spaces a day,” he said.
Johan Kruger, a national spokesman for the Post Office, said the number of recipients served depended on the number of ATMs and available funds. Additionally, some mall managers restricted the number of people who can queue.
“The Post Office has no control over the actions of members of the public outside our facilities and we advise our customers not to pay a bribe,” he said.
He said that people should report such activities to the police.
© 2021 GroundUp. This article was published for the first time here.