People can be seen queuing in front of the Department of Labour in Louis Trichardt from as early as 06:00 in the morning, but many complain that it often takes them days of back-and-forth travelling before they finally get assisted. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare.
Date: 12 August 2021 By: Bernard Chiguvare
For the past few weeks, queues have been forming outside the offices of the Department of Labour in Louis Trichardt, with residents complaining about the services being rendered. The department, however, is adamant that people are being assisted promptly and that everything possible is being done to handle the workload, considering the problems brought along by the pandemic.
The Covid-19 lockdown has brought along misery for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom lost their jobs during this period. The jobless need to visit the closest office of the Department of Labour to apply for their Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) or the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant, which was re-introduced by the president on 25 July this year.
Last week, the newspaper spoke to some of the people who were queuing in front of the department’s doors for this purpose.
“I have been at this office every day for two weeks now without getting close to being assisted. I am usually here by 06:00 in the morning, but go back unattended each time. They only assist a few people at a time and then close for the day. My journey costs me R40 every time,” said Reuben Ramokgobedi (54), a resident from Sinthumule.
Some days, Ramokgobedi said, only about 10 out of close to 100 people standing in line were attended to, and when the office felt they had done enough for one day and closed their doors, the rest had to go home and try again the next day. “What else can we do?” he asked helplessly.
Ramokgobedi lost his plumbing job at the end of July this year. “I am the breadwinner of a family of five, so I need to urgently apply for the UIF. This is all we have to put food on the table,” he said.
Another 38-year-old man, who preferred to remain anonymous, told this newspaper that he too had been at the department in Louis Trichardt for four days, without luck. “It is really frustrating. This is my fifth day back and forth; 70km every day. I am no longer employed and need to apply for some relief fund. The labour office must seriously do something about their system here; it can’t work like this. How can they attend to only a handful out of nearly 100 people queuing the whole day?” he asked indignantly.
But the Limpopo Department of Labour denied the claims. In its response to the media, the department’s spokesperson, Lerato Mashamba, said that between 26 July and 4 August, 456 UIF clients had been assisted at the Makhado offices, with more than 30 new UIF applications registered on each of these eight days.
“Makhado Labour Centre receives no less than 70 to 100 clients daily and we service clients on a first-come-first-served basis. There is no way we can assist each and every person who shows up at the office every day, due to capacity constraints,” said Mashamba, and added that the office often experienced disruptions from clients. So far, the Makhado office had apparently suffered two deaths and four cases of staff members who had tested positive for Covid, and this, Mashamba said, affected service delivery greatly.
Bernard Chiguvare is a Zimbabwean-born journalist. He writes mainly for the online publication, Groundup.