Grant deductions allowed, court rules

2017-05-10 13:30
Sassa’s new regulations saw The Witness being inundated with calls from social grant recipients complaining about the suspension of their accounts.

Sassa’s new regulations saw The Witness being inundated with calls from social grant recipients complaining about the suspension of their accounts. (File)

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A Pietermaritzburg resident whose social grant payment was suspended along with thousands of others across KZN, welcomed in Tuesday’s court ruling against the department.

This after the Pretoria high court’s ruling allowing debit orders to run on Sassa bank accounts, effectively setting aside the department’s recent amendment to the Social Assistance Act regulations disallowing the deductions.

The amended regulations had effectively rendered accounts such as those of Thobeka Ndlovu and of millions of other beneficiaries with debit orders going off their Sassa accounts, irregular, paving the way for the agency to suspend the accounts.

“I have not been getting grant money for my two kids since February and when I went to the Sassa offices in Pieter­maritzburg I was told that the grants were stopped because I had too many insurance premiums being deducted from my Sassa account.

“I’m happy about the court ruling because Sassa made it look like I was an irresponsible parent by taking out the insurance policies. The policies will help my kids should I die,” said Ndlovu, who lives in Imbali.

Tuesday’s court ruling came after Net1, which owns payment company CPS, challenged the department’s amended regulations in court.

In his ruling, Acting Judge CJ van der Westhuizen likened the department’s amended regulations to “banning an electronic form of payment that is effected upon an instruction by the bank account holder to his or her bank in favour of a third party”.

Sassa’s new regulations saw The Witness being inundated with calls from social grant recipients complaining about the suspension of their accounts.

“I have a funeral policy where R50 was being deducted from the Sassa account but they went on to block my account and told me that the money is not supposed to go off the account because it was a child grant meant to buy only food for the child,” a beneficiary who did not want to be named said.

A source within Sassa’s KZN offices put the number of beneficiaries whose payments had been suspended to about 10 000 across the province.

However, while Sassa provincial senior communications manager Mbizeni Mdlalose admitted that some beneficiaries have had their payments suspended in recent months, he disputed the 10 000 figure.

“The suspensions were because of a variety of reasons, including failure by beneficiaries to respond to requests to complete review forms to establish whether their financial situation had changed since the time they applied for the grants,” he said.

Seventeen million South Africans are beneficiaries of the government’s social assistance programme at a cost of R120 billion per annum.

Although some recipients were relieved, Evashnee Naidu, a KZN regional manager for Black Sash, described yesterday’s court ruling as shocking.

“The judge didn’t take into consideration the impact of deductions on poor households. We are also upset that the judge didn’t feel fit that the Black Sash story ought to be heard.”

It is highly likely that the matter will end up in the Constitutional Court, said Naidu.


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