The SA Post Office (Sapo) has formally taken over the full payments of South African Social Services Agency (Sassa) social grants after meeting its deadline for card swaps on September 30. By the end of business on October 3, the SA Post Office’s system for Sassa social grant payment had already paid out 72% of the month’s grants in almost 9.8 million transactions. According to Sapo’s Chief Operations Officer Lindiwe Kwele, the social grants payment contract that Sassa had with CPS expired on September 30. Sapo now pays social grant recipients who receive their money electronically via the national payment system at Sapo branches, as well as at cash payment facilities.“We are thrilled to be fully in charge of all social grants payments. Together with Sassa, we have put in a lot of work over the past few months to build the capacity of our systems and refine the payment processes inside our retail outlets and through the other payment channels,” said Kwele.Sapo was announced as Sassa’s gazetted service provider of social grants payments in December 2017, inaugurating a state-led payments initiative. This was followed by Sapo’s launch of a new Sassa card in July 2018 and the mammoth task of migrating social grants recipients. To date, Sapo has migrated 6.9 million grant recipients to the new card. The new card gives social grant recipients benefits that include a free cash withdrawal per month inside the Post Office, unlimited free purchases and three merchant till withdrawals as well as ATM withdrawal functionality.“The card swap process is proceeding as about one million people are still on the old Sassa card. “We also believe we can win back the beneficiaries who chose other financial services providers during the earlier periods of the transition. We have proven that we can successfully pay Sassa grants and our product offers superior benefits and it prevents any undue deductions from the money intended for the sustenance of the vulnerable poor,” explained Kwele.KwaDukuza residents who are social grant recipients also had mixed reactions with regards to the changes.Sizakele Magwaza (65), a pensioner from Ntshawini, said she is happy that she will now get all her money without deductions.“I think it is a good thing now that we will be getting our money at the Post Office and there are no charges as we only have to pay for a funeral cover of our choice,” she said.Musa Ngobese (69), however, said that although they welcome the change, they are worried about the long queues at some branches.“You get there as early as 5 am and by the time you get assistance its already closing time but we will now be protected from people who steal our grants through illegal transactions,” he said.Meanwhile, Sapo says that its branches nationwide remain open until they have served all beneficiaries and, where necessary, hours on Saturday are extended to 2 pm.Sapo has also rolled out biometric verification in its branches to enable Sassa beneficiaries to withdraw their grants with biometric verification instead of a PIN. “This functionality is intended for recipients who experience challenges with a PIN and electronic banking services. The PIN reset data for the August payments run clearly demonstrated the need for this move and we thank the panel of experts for their input in this regard,” said Kwele.The full takeover of the social grants payments has also initiated Sapo’s implementation of beneficiary empowerment and awareness programmes on the new payments system, including financial literacy.The new payment regime allows social grant recipients to retain savings in the new card which they can access at their convenience. In addition, Sassa and Sapo have implemented safeguards to protect social grants beneficiaries from abusive financial practices. “Illegal deductions are a thing of the past. We also encourage social grants recipients to choose wisely and select a payment provider that lets them receive their grant money in full,” Kwele concluded.