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Blind pensioner left in the rain without answers outside SASSA office

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By Thamsanqa Mbovane for GroundUp

A blind pensioner was turned away at a SASSA office in Uitenhage on Wednesday morning despite her plea for assistance after her grant was not paid this month. Thozama Bitterhout from KwaNobuhle was accompanied by her relative, Nomzi Gaba to the SASSA office in the drizzling rain.

Bitterhout said she received no explanation for why her old age grant of R1 900 was not paid this month. She used to get a disability grant until she turned 60 two years ago.

“When I arrived at SASSA at about 9:00, the gates were closed. I heard a security guard saying they take in 50 people a day. I told the security to call the manager but he refused to do so. Instead, he took my ID book inside and came back saying I will only get my old age grant next month,” she said.

RETURN TRIP BY TAXI COST R24 PER PERSON

Bitterhout said a return trip by taxi to the SASSA office cost R24 per person, and she had to borrow R50 to travel with Gaba.

Gaba said: “We are tired and hungry. The queue was long, starting in Constitution Road and snaking to Chase Street.”

SASSA spokesperson in the Eastern Cape, Luzuko Qina, said the spike of Covid-19 and a move to level 3 lockdown had impacted already burdened services. Qina said that the incident with Bitterhout was “regrettable” but said her grant would be paid.

He said the issue had arisen when Bitterhout applied for a Grant in Aid in December which had also been approved.

“When any changes are effected in a bank account like additional grants, it is required that the account be verified by the banks first. This resulted in the payment delay in January which had to be rolled over to February. The bank verification has been completed and the beneficiary will be receiving both payments in February.”

Qina said 11,000 temporary disability grants had lapsed in the Eastern Cape. “We have booked in 90% of our cases, with 65% already assessed medically. We have no backlog,” he said.

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Buhari approves N6.45billion oxygen plants for COVID-19 treatment

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President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Ministries, Departments, Agencies, MDAs, and business enterprises to grant access to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to their systems for the purposes of tax collection.

The President issued the directive on Thursday at the First Annual National Tax Dialogue organized by the FIRS in Abuja.

Buhari also ordered the FIRS to “immediately put all measures in place to fully implement programmes to stamp out Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in all of its ramifications and generally automate its tax processes.”

He urged the FIRS to fast-track its digitalization of the tax collection process.

“I have directed all government agencies and business enterprises to grant FIRS access to their systems for connection. We all are now living in a fast digitalising world.

“As such, business transactions are continually being migrated from “brick and mortar” locations to digital places.

“However, It is necessary for tax authorities to adopt digital means to efficiently track taxable transactions for the purpose of collecting taxes.

“We also made necessary amendments to the FIRS Establishment Act in the Finance Act 2020 in order to provide the necessary legislative framework for adopting technology in tax administration,” he said.

Speaking also, the Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, revealed that the FIRS would match on to digitalize the tax process fully.

He also thanked the President and all other stakeholders that worked together to implement the necessary laws for their continued support to the service.

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Newspaper front pages from around the world, Thursday 21 January 2021

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The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States dominated newspaper headlines across the world. After a turbulent four years in office, which culminated in the insurrection at the US Capitol two weeks ago, Donald Trump has finally left the White House.

Newspapers celebrated a new dawn for the people of America. We take a look at how the major publications reported on the historic event.

NEW YORK TIMES – ‘DEMOCRACY HAS PREVAILED’

The New York Times front page depicted newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden embracing his wife Dr Jill Biden, after he was sworn in yesterday. Four stories on the front page looked at Donal Trump’s departure from the White House, Kamal Harris being sworn in as Vice President of the US and the heavy security arrangements at the ceremony.

WASHINGTON POST – A SOMBER TURN TOWARDS THE PRESIDENCY

Joe Biden’s inauguration took on a more sombre tone in the Washington Post, as the new president paid homage to the 400 000 Americans who have died of COVID-19.

LOS ANGELES TIMES – BIDEN INAUGURATED

The LA Times played things straight down the line, and acknowledged Kamala Harris’s historic moment.

WALL STREET JOURNAL – BIDEN CALLS FOR UNITY

The Wall Street Journal focused on Biden’s call for unity in the US.

THE GUARDIAN – ‘DEMOCRACY HAS PREVAILED’

The Guardian’s striking front page picture of Biden’s inauguration speech.

DAILY MAIL – DON’S GONE – LET’S GO, JOE!

The Daily Mail as always has a bit of fun with the juxtaposition of Donald Trump leaving and the Bidens moving in.

THE CITIZEN – ‘DEMOCRACY’S DAY’

The Citizen in the US hailed ‘democracy day’ across its front page, with a list of Biden’s top priorities.

NEW INDIAN EXPRESS – DAY OF DEMOCRACY, SAYS PREZ BIDEN

The New Indian Express list the challenges Biden immediately faces in office.

CHINA DAILY – CHINA-US RELATIONS LIKELY TO IMPROVE

In China, Biden’s inauguration was not more important than the 2022 Olympic Games.

JAPAN TIMES – A NEW CHAPTER

Meanwhile, in Japan, Biden’s inauguration was worthy of a picture and caption on the front page.

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