R350 grant hits new snag as Postbank system goes down

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The payment of the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant has hit another snag, with the Postbank experiencing a massive technical outage over the past 24 hours, which has made withdrawals impossible.

Postbank spokesperson Bongani Diako said on Friday:

"The impact of the outage affects access to services across many of our channels that include ATMs, retail merchants and in-branch transactions. Access to Social Relief of Distress (SRD R350) grants funds and other Sassa payments through these channels are also impacted. SASSA beneficiaries accessing their grants through the Postbank Sassa gold card are able to access their funds through ATMs."

This means the vast majority of the 10.5 million applicants for the latest round will not be able to access their grants. Only people who opted for payment to a pre-existing bank account with another bank will be able to make withdrawals.

Postbank's other customers are also affected. It has approximately six million accounts, but fewer actual customers. 

Sassa also advised on Friday that no applications for the SRD can be made over the weekend as its website and whats app line will not be available due to maintenance.

In a statement on Thursday the Postbank said that the technical difficulties were due to an outage at one of its data centres. Diako said technicians were working around the clock but he did not have a timeline on when the problem would be resolved. 

READ | No R350 grants were paid in April and May, Sassa admits

The latest iteration of the R350 grant which began on 1 April has had a rocky start. The imposition of a means test for the first time slowed down approvals, resulting in none being paid in April or May.

READ | Black Sash is taking govt to court to overturn means test for R350 grant

Last week, Sassa began paying June payments to some of the 10.5 million people who had applied. Backpay for April and May was also not made contrary to statements by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu earlier in the month. On Thursday, the Social Economic Rights Institute (Seri) furnished both Ramaphosa and Lindiwe Zulu with a letter of demand to pay outstanding amounts for April and May by 30 June, failing which it will approach a court. 

The Institute for Economic Justice, which instructed Seri, said on Friday that it had also written to Ramaphosa with practical suggestions for how to pay outstanding grants in the quickest time possible. One suggestion would be to not vet all applicants again from scratch but allow those who qualified for and received March payments to immediately be paid for May and June.

Human rights lobby group the Black Sash on Thursday announced that it would challenge the means test in court, which it says is contrary to the constitutional imperative to progressively provide social security support to those who need it.

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