No pension payouts due to vandalism

Pensioners queue in a long line at Shoprite in Athlone to collect their Sassa grants.

Pensioners are unhappy that the Gatesville post office can’t pay out their grants after cables were stolen during a burglary.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

The post office has been unable to process pension payments since the latest burglary on Friday March 1.

Pensioners now have to brave hours-long waits in the long line at Shoprite in Athlone to collect their grants at the pension pay-out point there.

It’s the only option, says Sharifa Shah, 71, for those not wanting to pay ATM charges that add up to the cost of a loaf of bread or a litre of milk.

SA Post Office spokeswoman Martie Gilchrist said Athlone’s post office was taking a battering from criminals.

On Friday February 15, a microwave, fridge and other items
were stolen. And the Friday after that, the post office was vandalised, parcels were torn open, computer cables cut and aluminium window frames were bent and broken.

There was an attempted break-in the following day, and then the thieves returned on Sunday February 24.

This time they went next door to the post office depot, where they opened mail and trashed the office.

“This will have an impact on the delivery of mail, and your readers must please take note of this. We are still waiting for a case number from the police.

“This is needed for us to
claim from insurance, so it could take some time before the office is back on line,” Ms Gilchrist
said.

Ms Shah is helping fellow pensioners by offering to stand in line for them or going with those who can’t travel alone. She said the pensioners now had to spend some of their R1700 state grants on taxi fare to get to Athlone to collect their money, which meant they went home with even less money.

“(The post office) needs to invest in proper security so that this doesn’t happen again. It happened a month ago as well. It is really an inconvenience for the seniors and everyone else in the area,” she said.

Another pensioner, Ruwayda Veerasamy, 72, said they also feared being robbed by vagrants who hung around outside the Athlone Shoprite.

“Every time there is a new problem. They send us from place to place, and we have to stand in these long queues. It is very difficult for us seniors, especially those who suffer from an illness.

“Some people’s money doesn’t even come through and they must wait till the next month and they don’t have bread or milk in their houses,” she said.

Ms Gilchrist said the Gatesville post office was not closed, but it could only handle manual transactions, which did not include pension payouts.

“The South African Post Office would like to apologise for the inconvenience and suggest that beneficiaries consider also going to the Athlone post office,” she said.

“We make an appeal to the community to please be on the lookout and notify the police immediately when they notice anything suspicious.”