Sassa ‘glitch’ leaves beneficiaries broke

Michelle Klaasen of Manenberg says pensioners fear regular delays with their grant payouts after the cards were swopped out last month.

Manenberg pensioner Catherine Jantjies, 66, was one of the thousands who queued across the city for grants at the weekend only to be short-changed and told to come back the next day for the rest.

South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) acting CEO, Abraham Mahlangu, says what happened on Sunday July 1 was a glitch caused by a new payment system.

South African Post Office spokeswoman Martie Gilchrist said technical errors had been solely to blame for the delays and not the strike action Sassa workers had threatened to take on Wednesday July 4 over salary grievances.

“We are working on the issues and this will not happen again. We do apologise,” she said.

Sassa is replacing its payment provider, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), with the SA Post Office, following a Constitutional Court ruling.

Beneficiaries can get their grants paid into their bank accounts or else through Postbank or through merchants.

CPS cards are being replaced by ones issued by the post office – this started in May at cash pay points, and will carry on at Sassa offices and post office branches till September.

Ms Jantjies, who has the old Sassa card, draws her pension at a retailer every month; on Sunday she stood in the queue from 5am but came away R80 short.

“They told me to come back the Monday to receive my R80, but I told them that today is pay-out day; why must I come back?”

She said that when she had returned the next day, money had been taken out of the drop safe in the office and she had been handed her R80 from a bag of cash.

“How did they know how much belongs to me and that they must give me that money? Something is not right here,” she said.

She said R10 had been deducted from her pension each month since April. She said she had been told it was for “bank charges” but that puzzled her because she drew her pension from a shop.

“We already get so little. How can they still deduct a R10?”

Sassa Western Cape spokeswoman, Shivani Wahab said it was not the retailer that deducted the R10 but Grindrod Bank.

“For all the beneficiaries with the old Sassa cards, the account is still with Grindrod Bank, and the bank is charging R10 for the administrative costs. This fee was previously covered by NET1/CPS but the latter is now only responsible for the cash payments at the community halls. Sassa disagreed with Grindrod in terms of the deduction of the R10 and has taken Grindrod to court to prevent any further deductions,” she said.

She said Sassa encouraged all beneficiaries with the old CPS card to swop it for the new one issued by the post office to stop any further deductions, besides those for funeral policies.

Manenberg resident Michelle Klaasen, who spoke on behalf of other pensioners who were reluctant to speak to the Athlone News themselves, said hundreds of them had not received their grants by last week Wednesday July 4.

She said residents feared the delays would become a regular problem.

“For three days, people had to go to the Sassa offices in Athlone to find out where their money is.

“This is a great concern because they are old pensioners, and it costs them travelling fare. The whole month they have to wait for their wages, which are already a little, and come pay day, there is no money.

“It is not fair,” she said.

People had gone out in the rain to get their money because they were desperate.

“The people with the old cards got their money Friday June 29 already. People are worried, is this going to happen all the time?” she said.

Sassa pays more than 12 million beneficiaries a month, and about 700 000 of them use the new Sassa card.

On Monday, Ms Wahab said R746 million of the R1 billion Sassa was due to pay for July had been dispensed.

“This means that just over 72% of payments have been made since all the technical hindrances have been eliminated.

“The remaining 28% are mainly people who don’t rush to withdraw their money on the first week of the month, and they won’t have any problems withdrawing their money,” she said.

Beneficiaries having problems with the new Sassa card should visit their nearest Sassa office to register a complaint that would then be sent on to the post office for “prompt resolution”, she said.