Social grant distribution in jeopardy as Sassa strike continues 'indefinitely'

2018-10-10 12:54
(File)

(File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Thousands of employees at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) embarked on a strike on Wednesday, threatening the distribution of social grants to millions of beneficiaries.

The National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) says it plans to meet with Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu on Wednesday afternoon in an effort to break the deadlock, but News24 was unable to immediately confirm with Shabangu's office whether the meeting had been scheduled. It is not clear whether Shabangu will be available as she is attending a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Nehawu members have a number of complaints, but central to their grievances is the biometric enrolment of beneficiaries, which Sassa employees say is a new function that they should be paid extra for. Sassa says the function is not new, and says it is disappointed in Nehawu's decision to strike.

Read: Sassa employees to embark on 'full-blown' strike – Nehawu

Many beneficiaries have not been paid their grants or have not been transitioned onto the new system run by the South African Post Office (SAPO), Nehawu says. SAPO and Sassa took over the distribution of grants after a lengthy Constitutional Court battle, during which the contract with Cash Paymaster Services was declared invalid.

Nehawu said in a statement: "Biometric enrolment is not part of the job description of workers, hence workers don't get remunerated for performing it, nor is it part of the Sassa grant administration business process. In rural areas there is a huge shortage of the biometric enrolment equipment leading to delays in the servicing of beneficiaries. The system does not cater for workers living with disabilities because the system requires a worker who has full physical ability to successfully perform the function in assisting the beneficiary. It also allows more than one person to login using the same user identity and user credentials leading to fraudulent activities."

Because of glitches in the system, workers have been told to bypass the biometric enrolment requirement, Nehawu says.

Meeting with Shabangu to determine next step - union

In August DA spokesperson on social development Bridget Masango said Sassa was not capturing biometric data and was exposing itself and beneficiaries to potential fraud. While Sassa employees and the agency were in talks over payment for this additional duty, on August 21 Sassa issued a memo to its employees telling them to bypass the biometric system, said Masango.

Sassa's Paseka Letsatsi says that employees were provided with training to work on the new system, and that biometric enrolment is not a new function. All that has changed, he says, is that while in the past beneficiaries were registered with ink and a pad, this was now being done digitally. 

In a report to the Constitutional Court in July 2017, Sassa said it had indicated that it would take over the biometric registering of grant beneficiaries, and this was communicated to unions.

Read more: Privacy of Sassa beneficiary information a concern - researcher

Acting Sassa CEO Abraham Mahlangu said: "It is unfortunate that Nehawu should be resorting to a strike action because Sassa has been in talks with Nehawu regarding its grievances relating to the level of training on biometric enrolment provided to staff. Sassa went to [the] extent of rescinding all disciplinary processes against employees who refuse to perform the biometric function pending engagements with Nehawu."

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha told News24 on Wednesday that the union's meeting with Shabangu would determine whether the shutdown would continue.

If an agreement cannot be reached, Saphetha said the distribution of grants would be affected by the industrial action and the strike would go on "indefinitely".

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    nehawu  |  sassa  |  social grants  |  protests

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.