March 12, 2018

Worry over SASSA payments

About 10.7 million South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries have been asking whether their social grant will be successfully paid to them come 1 April 2018. SASSA has been using Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to pay beneficiaries through cash payments. However, the contract between SASSA and CPS, which expires on 31 March 2018, was announced invalid by the Constitutional Court.

In December last year, the Constitutional Court ordered (to SASSA), and it was agreed, that the basic parts of the scheme must be moved from CPS to the South African Post Office (SAPO). However, this has not yet been actioned and now SASSA has less than a month to honour the Constitutional Court’s December decision.

Despite the court’s extension of this invalid contract between SASSA and CPS, SASSA approached the Constitutional Court again on Tuesday to extend the contract further by six months. SASSA had argued that about 2.8 million beneficiaries would not get their grant payments if the contract with CPS was not extended. SASSA said it was concerned about the grant beneficiaries, mostly elderly and disabled people living in rural areas, who depend on cash deliveries of their social grants by CPS. The court is yet to rule on the matter of extending this unlawful contract by six months.

Should the Constitutional Court rule against the extension?

We are all waiting with patience the Constitutional Court’s decision. But, what if the Constitutional Court decides not to extend the contract? Would the agency (SASSA) come up with a plan? How will the 2.8 million beneficiaries of the scheme get paid?

Susan Shabangu, who took over the reins from Bathabile Dlamini as the Minister of Social Development, together with the acting SASSA CEO Pearl Bhengu, last week Wednesday assured Members of Parliament that all payments starting from April, would come from SASSA’s corporate account and not CPS’s. “On the 1st of April, everyone will be paid, whether CPS is here or not. The only problem may be at the cash pay points”, she said.

At a press briefing that took place on 8 March in Pretoria, Pearl Bhengu said that SASSA’s plan is to load 2.8 million (mainly) rural elderly and disabled beneficiaries into vehicles and take them to ATMs. “This is what is going to happen. The people who are using pay points will be having their cards with the money, but without having anyone to deliver cash,” she said. “Remember the people using pay points are elderly people and disabled people so it would have been then for SASSA taking all those people from the pay points to where they can get their money.”

With the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the extension of the unlawful contract, and SASSA’s plan to literally transport 2.8 million people to ATMs in order for them to receive their grant, this is indeed a worry to the nation and a space to watch.

Koena Seanego
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