6 July 2018

South African Social Security Agency Stabilises Grants Payment System

Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane/GroundUp
A group of mostly pensioners waited for hours outside the post office in Langalibalele Street, Pietermaritzburg where the doors remained closed as workers are on strike.
press release

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) experienced problems in paying a portion of its beneficiaries since the 01 July 2018. SASSA pays over 12 million beneficiaries per month and about 700 000 of them use the new SASSA card. These 700 000 beneficiaries could not draw their money at some of the banking infrastructure in the country, notwithstanding the fact that SASSA had already deposited funds into their accounts.

SASSA and its partner, the South African Post Office (SAPO) had to work tirelessly on a 24 hour basis to clear the technical glitches which made it difficult for money to be drawn even if the card already had funds deposited by SASSA. Institutions operating in the banking sector were engaged and they played a critical role in improving the situation. The capacity of the system to deal with huge volumes has been strengthened to ensure that in the coming months nobody goes home unpaid. The line speed between SAPO and the payment clearing house called Bankserv was increased drastically and post offices were enabled to make manual payments whenever system faults arise.

Our plea to beneficiaries is that they don't have to necessarily collect their grants on the first day of the month, and that they don't have to queue in the early hours of the morning at post offices because their money will be available at any hour of the day. They don't have to subject themselves to the negative weather conditions we are experiencing and they have to avoid the congestion that comes at the beginning of every month.

At the moment R746 million of the R1 billion it is supposed to pay for the July month have received their July grants. This means that just over 72% of payments have been made since all the technical hindrances have been eliminated. The remaining 28% are mainly people who don't rush to withdraw their money on the first week of the month and they won't have any problems withdrawing their money.

SASSA has to phase out Cash Paymaster Services by the end of September. Beneficiaries should ensure that by the end of August, they have acquired the new SASSA card because the old one is expiring in September 2018. The new SASSA card is an improvement of the old card and it does not allow deductions for things such as airtime, loans or prepaid electricity among others. This new card also allows 3 free cash withdrawals at points of sale, one free withdrawal at the post office per month, free swipes at points of sale and accepted by all ATM's displaying the VISA sign.

The frustrations at the beginning of the month coincided with the SASSA strike which had the potential of exacerbating the situation. Fortunately the SASSA strike had no impact on operations and the Labour Court directed that it must be called off so that negotiations can be initiated not later than the 12th July 2018. These negotiations will include three Ministers from Social Development, Treasury and the DPSA as provided for by Section7 (2) of the Social Security Act of 2004. SASSA welcomes the order of the court and will comply with it to the letter. This order echoes the SASSA position that it cannot negotiate in isolation of the broader public sector which is a step in the right direction.

SASSA runs a card swap project that allows beneficiaries to swap their old cards for the new card. This process has been impacted upon by the current strike at the post office. We hope that the negotiating parties will reach a solution very soon so that deserving vulnerable people can acquire the new SASSA card without hindrance and thereby enjoy its benefits.

Social security is a right enshrined in the South African Constitution and all parties involved should work together to ensure that this right is not violated. For its part, SASSA will continue raising the bar to ensure that beneficiaries get the quality service they deserve. We wish to also apologise sincerely to the affected beneficiaries and commit that these problems will not recur in future- Abraham Mahlangu the Acting CEO concluded.

Beneficiaries who encounter any problems can contact SASSA toll free on 0800 60 10 11 or inbox SASSA on social media. In extreme cases SASSA will provide social relief of distress in the form of food parcels to anybody encountering problems with accessing their grants.

Issued by: South African Social Security Agency

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