5.7 million social grants to be paid directly from April 1 – Sassa

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South Africa’s 17 million grant beneficiaries will receive their social grants and be paid on time, acting South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) chief executive Pearl Bhengu says.

“We are pleased to announce a significant state of readiness for the South African Post Office (Sapo) to commence payment on social grants and ensure South Africans that social grants will be paid on April 1,” Bhengu said at a joint press conference with Sapo on Thursday.

She said that by April 1, through Sassa’s partnership with Sapo, 5.7 million beneficiaries will have already received their payment without the use of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

“The Post Office is ready to play its role in the payment of social grants,” Sapo CEO Mark Barnes said.

“An increasing number of beneficiaries have also already opened Postbank accounts between January and February 2018,” he added.

Bhengu said Sassa and Sapo had been working on a pilot program, since January 2018, where grant beneficiaries are paid directly into their personal accounts held at commercial banks or through Postbank at Sapo, which has gone well so far.

However, around 26% (2.8 million) of the beneficiaries received their payments in cash at a designated paypoint and most of the beneficiaries, according to Bhengu, were elderly or people with disabilities whom Sassa does not yet have a system to pay without CPS.

“It is for this distribution of cash where Sassa still requires support,” she said.

The Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday that Sassa did not have alternative plans if the court refused to extend the CPS contract by another six months.

Sassa had argued that the 2.8 million beneficiaries would not get their grant payments if the contract with CPS was not extended.

The contract expires on March 31.

The agency was ordered by the Constitutional Court in December last year to migrate the grants scheme from CPS to Sapo, which Sassa had agreed to do.

Sassa has now asked for a further extension of six months as Sapo would be unable to take over cash payment services of the 2.8 million beneficiaries.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng lambasted Sassa for requesting the extension, saying it was “sad” to see considering that the CPS contract was declared invalid in 2014.

“The court is still being approached after so many years of saying this is unlawful. An unlawfulness continues to be perpetuated while we are watching.

"It is very sad ... it is like we are being laughed at by Sassa and CPS. It’s most unfortunate and what is even sadder, there is no explanation.

"You know when someone does something wrong ... no explanation that we can understand has been put before us,” Mogoeng said.

The court has reserved judgement on whether it will extend the contract with CPS.

Should it not allow a further extension, Sassa said it had a contingency plan in place involving the SA Reserve Bank (SARB).

Bhengu said Sassa has an account with the SARB which it will use to make cash transfers to beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, card holders will still be able to use their Sassa cards until September 30, after which new cards will be issued through the post office, Bhengu said.

She urged beneficiaries to ignore anyone who offers them alternative cards.

Barnes said they would continue their meetings with Sassa on a weekly basis to ensure a smooth transition.

He added that through the Postbank accounts there will be no deductions and there will be one free balance enquiry each month, one free mini statement each month, and the first replacement card will be free.

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