About 500 people under the Community Work Programme (CWP) have marched to the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (COGTA) offices over the alleged non-payment of stipends since March. The workers say they were told they would continue to receive stipends during the lockdown.

They handed over a memorandum of grievances at the department’s head offices in Pretoria.

The Community Work Programme, which falls under COGTA, employs 250 000 community workers nationally.

They claim they have not been paid since the lockdown began. Co-ordinator Simphiwe Hlayisa says these workers fall under essential services and should head back to work with full payment.

“So we are saying those participants must be paid because we are saying the budget for them is there. But it’s a matter of releasing the budget and paying participants, so that is the most critical thing, and of course we raised the issue of PPE, that participants do not have PPEs. We are talking about people who are grounded in the communities, rooted in the communities in each community, like for instance Johannesburg alone has about 7 000 beneficiaries rooted in the communities of Johannesburg, but those people remain unpaid as well.”

Non-Profit Organisations say they are also still awaiting payment.  NPO, Iketsetse Enterprise Network has about 20 000 community workers in the programme.

The organisation’s Angela More says: “We are just looking for people to be paid like the resident said, that even during COVID-19, people will still be paid, but our people haven’t been paid and these are people below the bread line, so we are really begging our people to get paid so that they can put food on the table.”

More says since the lockdown, the organisation has been inundated with financial relief requests from community workers who rely on the stipend for survival.

“I mean our participants are earning less than R1 000 a month, so you can imagine if someone who is earning less than a R1 000 a month don’t get paid at the end of the moth. What’s happening in that family. Others are looking after grandchildren, others are breadwinners, so what is happening is really unfair to our people”.

The department has received the memorandum of demands and says it is processing the payments.