The pay to skip the queue scandal affecting special social grant beneficiaries has now spread to more areas in the country.
First reported in the Eastern Cape in September last year, this practice has now become an unmanageable headache for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
Beneficiaries in Hammanskraal outside Pretoria say they are also being targeted by people who charge them a ‘service fee’ of at least R50 to jump the normally long queues at post offices when they collect their R350 special grant.
These people who introduce themselves as "queue marshals" are said to be working hand-in-hand with post office employees to rob beneficiaries of a portion of their only income to see them through the month.
A distraught beneficiary of the R350 unemployment grant who spoke to Newsnote on condition of anonymity, said men who identified themselves as queues marshals approached him and said he doesn’t have to go back home without his grant.
“I was approached by a queue marshals who requested copies of my identity document. He asked how many times I received the grant when he proceeded to explain that they charge R50 per R350 grant,” said the beneficiary.
He said the men waited for beneficiaries at the entrance of the post office in Jubilee Mall in Hammanskraal.
“The queue marshals took our ID copies and they asked us to follow them into the post office. We received our money but on the entrance of the post office the queue marshals wait there and collect the queue jumping fee from us. The queue marshals gave us an ultimatum saying if we don’t pay the R50 then we will not be receiving our grants because of the snail pace of the queue. He said there is also a possibility of waiting on the queue for days and returning home without the money due to insufficient funds for beneficiaries at the post office,” said the beneficiary.
He added: "What hurts the most about this situation is that the R350 doesn’t even cover for all my basic needs for the month. I was stranded and I didn’t even have money for a taxi fare to return home so I had to give them the money. I arrived at the post office very early in the morning so that I get my grant".
The South African Post Office (SAPO) confirmed that it is aware of criminals targeting SASSA beneficiaries.
“The SA Post Office has become aware of instances where self-appointed queue marshalls ask customers who visit their branches a fee for a place in the front of the queue,” said SA Post Office communications manager, Johan Kruger.
Kruger said employee or other individuals have no right to ask beneficiaries to pay any fee to be serviced or to receive preferential treatment such as jumping a queue.
He said this was “opportunistic and unethical behaviour”.
The Post Office has urged people to report these incidents to a toll-free crime-buster hotline on 0800 020 070 and contact the police.