7 March 2016

South Africa: Sassa and Social Development Clash Publicly

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has told the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) to "focus on their own mandate" instead of criticising Sassa in the media.

Sassa is the government agency that distributes social grants. It does so on behalf of the DSD. While the DSD has an oversight role over the parastatal, it has no operational control over it.

On 26 February, provincial DSD minister Albert Fritz released a statement criticising Sassa for not attending a community meeting in Elsies River. The meeting was to discuss concerns over ongoing unauthorised deductions from social grant accounts, for which Sassa has been widely criticised.

In response Sassa told GroundUp that it was "disappointed" with DSD's statement and that it had not formally been invited to the event.

The group of about 30 beneficiaries, DSD officials and the local ward councillor attended the meeting at the Elsies River civic centre on 25 February.

Sihle Ngobese, spokesman for provincial Social Development Minister Albert Fritz, said Sassa's behaviour showed a "complete contempt" for the lives of poor people.

"The majority of people wanted answers on the ongoing incidents of unauthorized deductions from their social grants. Sassa's ducking, adding insult to injury," he said.

Ngobese said Sassa had an obligation to attend these community meetings and to investigate each complaint received during the meetings. He said the provincial ministry has received 27 complaints this year alone. The ministry has also assisted 626 cases since 2010.

"We will continue to attend these public meetings in order to play our oversight role over Sassa," he said.

Sassa regional spokesperson Shivani Wahab said the DSD should be using it's time to develop programmes to alleviate poverty and reduce citizen's dependency on social grants.

"It is advisable that they focus on their mandate of 1,000 backlogs with the Foster Care Extensions and develop comprehensive poverty alleviation programmes.

"They should probably use their time to render more effective services to vulnerable children placed in foster care and the major ongoing challenges experienced with drugs and substance abuse in the province," she said.

Wahab said Sassa representatives have been attending meetings in Scottsdene, Manenberg, Gugulethu and Mitchell's Plain to discuss the deductions.

"We are always willing to address the public on these platforms to ensure that we provide clarity on deductions and any other social grant related matter. For the last four months our beneficiary education programmes have focused on the issue of deductions and safety tips for social grant beneficiaries," she said.

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