Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.
Scores of people are struggling to get their social grants from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and Postbank this month. The DA has been inundated with calls, emails and WhatsApp messages from desperate grant beneficiaries that aren’t able to access their grants.
The petrol price increased with 59 cents per litre yesterday – a devastating increase for the poorest of the poor in South Africa. Not only will transport to and from their grant access points become more expensive, but they increasingly have less every month to spend on basic necessities.
To add insult to injury, Postbank said in a statement Tuesday that beneficiaries who use Postbank or SASSA gold cards wouldn’t be able to withdraw their grants from ATMs for December due to criminals targeting the network. And while Postbank tried to assure the public that experts and law enforcement agencies were working towards fixing the network and apprehending the criminals, millions of grant beneficiaries are now only able to access their funds from retailers. And that is not a given – the DA has received numerous complaints that beneficiaries weren’t able to access their funds at the partner retailers.
The DA is especially worried about beneficiaries in rural areas. They often do not have the luxury of retailers close to where they reside and would now have to travel great distances to access their funds. What little they have are wasted on unnecessary and increasingly expensive travel costs. And from past experience, traveling the vast distances does not guarantee payment. Often they have to return home without money because of the various problems at access points.
Beneficiaries struggling to access their grants have been a recurring monthly problem for many years now. And while the excuses offered by SASSA and its partners like Postbank might differ, the impact on grant recipients are massive and compounding – physically, financially and psychologically.
It is high time that the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, earned her salary and addressed SASSA’s many flaws once and for all. SASSA must do what the act that established it 16 years ago says – social grant payments must be paid consistently and correctly to all recipients without fail. The repeated failures to pay recipients on time, shows that it is time that SASSA institutionalise grant payments and insource this function again. Beneficiaries cannot continue to suffer day after day, year after year because the Minister and the Agency that are meant to serve them are inept and callous. The people of South Africa deserve better.