The family of a Wallacedene pensioner, Willem Smit, is in shock following his death, which they described as undignified, at the Scottsdene Youth Centre in Kraaifontein on Wednesday April 6.
Magrieta White, his partner of 39 years, was in tears when she told Northern News she and Mr Smit had waited outside the youth centre on Tuesday night so they could be among the first in the queue to attend to his South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pension application when the gates opened on Wednesday morning.
The youth centre is a service point for Sassa pensioners.
It was cold but they passed the night and had moved inside when the gates opened.
“There are so many people and they often turn people away,” said Ms White. “If you want to get attended to, this is what you have to do.”
As they sat waiting on a bench in the reception hall, Ms White said her partner felt unwell and he rested his head on her lap.
At the same time he involuntarily urinated and a security guard came up to the couple, said Ms White, requesting she go and get a mop and clean up the mess.
“The security guard helped me put Willem on the floor. A Sassa man also came to help but just before 8am, he passed away.”
But, she says, it was hours before a mortuary van came to collect the body.
Sarie Davies and Lena Squire, two sisters of Mr Smit, said they, and the rest of the family, two more sisters and three brothers, came immediately when they heard the news of their sibling’s death. But they say they were shocked at the amount of time it took for his body to be taken to the mortuary.
Crowded into the small RDP house where Mr Smit had lived in Wallacedene with Magrieta, his daughter Catherine and her four children, Ms Squire told Northern News, “We were all there, waiting for hours and hours until the van came in the early afternoon. We cannot understand why it took so long.”
The family said they would stand together to pay for the funeral as Catherine, who works as a char twice a week in Durbanville, and Magrieta, would not be able to afford the costs.
Robert Daniels, principal communications officer for emergency medical and forensic pathology services, told Northern News that EMS is mandated by the police who need to clear the death.
“The body was collected in the afternoon.” (***Robert is trying to get me a time).
Colonel Harry Swart of the Kraaifontein SAPS detective service told Northern News, an inquest docket had been opened and the post mortem conducted on Tuesday April 12. “The police responded to the the scene and contacted the department of health through radio control. The hold-up was not due to the response time of the police. It is the responsibility of department of health to transport bodies to Tygerberg mortuary.”
Northern News contacted the department of health but by the time this edition went to print, they had not yet responded..
Sassa’s Western Cape spokesperson, Shivani Wahab, confirmed the death of Mr Smit at the Wallacedene service point.
“The Wallacedene service point is serviced once a week. Sassa serves approximately 200 clients at this point.
“All social grant screenings and applications are done in line with Sassa’s standardised business processes, meaning that it is not necessary for clients to sleep overnight at any Sassa contact point, as all clients will be assisted on the day that they require a service. Should for any reason, clients not be assisted on the day, Sassa WC ensures that an additional day of service is conducted at the contact point, with additional staff members being deployed, to ensure that all clients are duly assisted.
“According to the client’s spouse, he was feeling unwell prior to his visit to the Sassa contact point. On the day that the event unfolded, Sassa management ensured that paramedics were called in immediately to assist. Unfortunately the client was declared deceased at the scene.
“Should a social grant applicant be unable to access a Sassa contact point for a social grant application, Sassa will conduct a home visit. To arrange the home visit the social grant applicant will require a letter from the doctor stating the reason/s for a home assessment. The appointment for a home visit can then be scheduled on the applicant’s behalf at the nearest Sassa contact point.”