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Food parcels in South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown? Ignore fake messages, call 0800 601 011 instead

A “huge demand for food parcels” during South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown has led the social development department to develop a “new system” to “verify individuals that qualify”, claims a Facebook post from 13 April 2020.

It says people who want to apply for food parcels must either call or send a WhatsApp message or a “please call me” text to one of two phone numbers. 

The post has been repeatedly shared since it first appeared.

A WhatsApp version, which we received on 13 April, says applicants must send their personal information – full name, ID number, employment status and contact details – to the numbers. 

“The names and details of the applicant will then be screened and verified with SASSA to ascertain if the individual qualifies to receive food parcels,” says the post

South Africa’s lockdown to control the Covid-19 outbreak is set to last until at least 30 April. Everyone in the country, except essential workers, must stay at home and only go out “under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant”.

The lockdown is likely to lead to thousands of people losing their jobs. The government has launched social relief measures to help people through the lockdown, including providing food parcels. 

But has the Department of Social Development, through Sassa, the South African Social Security Agency, set up this new system to identify food parcel recipients?

Message, contact details not from Sassa

The Facebook post is signed “Office of the Speaker” but doesn’t give a name or contact details. It also doesn’t say which department or agency the “speaker” is from. 

The message is not on Sassa’s official Facebook page. The agency’s Twitter account has not tweeted any of the details, including the phone numbers. 

And neither of the phone numbers given in the Facebook post appear on the official list of head and regional contacts on Sassa’s website

Call 0800 601 011 toll-free

Africa Check asked Kgomoco Diseko, Sassa’s senior manager of media relations, about the post. She said the process described was false.

“To apply for social relief of distress, one has to call the Sassa toll-free number 0800 601 011 and choose option 3,” Diseko said. The number is also given on Sassa’s website and its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Sassa has warned against false information and false relief forms circulating social media. 

On 4 April it tweeted: “SASSA does not accept online applications for social relief of distress in the form of food parcels. Applications can only be made through the call centre 0800601011 or joint operation centres. Please Ignore the form circulating on social media as it was not placed by SASSA.”

The Facebook post is false. There is no “new system” for food parcel distribution. – Naledi Mashishi


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