The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has announced that its offices will now be open on Saturdays and Sundays until September. This is to allow social grant beneficiaries to swap their current SASSA cards for the new yellow SASSA card issued by the Post Office, the agency told GroundUp on Wednesday.
“SASSA has extended services to weekends on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 1pm to ensure that services are accessible to all beneficiaries,” said Shivani Wahab of SASSA Western Cape.
Last week, SASSA announced that the Post Office is to take over cash payments to beneficiaries when the current contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) ends in September. The Post Office will be responsible for the payment and uptake of all beneficiaries, except those who get their grants paid directly into their bank accounts.
The Black Sash in partnership with the Right2Know organisation has been hosting information sessions about this in different communities in Cape Town.
At the event in Khayelitsha on 28 May, mostly elderly beneficiaries asked questions about the Post Office’s role in the grant payment plan and whether any deductions would be made from the new cards.
On 11 June, about a dozen grant recipients from Mitchells Plain attended the information session at the Swartklip indoor sports centre. Beneficiaries watched the Black Sash’s Grant Grabs 3 documentary which highlights some of the issues with the green Easy Pay Everywhere card. A former Net1 employee spoke about how the company targeted social grant beneficiaries with the company’s financial services. Net1 is the parent company both of Easy Pay Everywhere and of CPS. Most beneficiaries who apply for loans at Net1 are given Easy Pay Everywhere accounts through which are their loans are managed.
“Will there be any deductions if people still have to make payments but change to the new card? And if you are part of SASSA’s insurance, how will it work now?” asked Ann October from Eastridge.
Current loans will still have to be paid
Mary-Ann Jacobs from Tafelsig told the group, “I don’t have a phone but I used to get deductions for airtime. About R400 was taken from me over a few months. They stopped it but I never got that money back.”
Gerrod Henry from Eastridge proudly displayed his new Post Bank card. Henry said he had received the full amount of his old age grant this month. “A while back I used to get deductions for electricity and a loan. It was a lot of money. I think I’ll stay with Post Bank if I don’t have to change to the [new] yellow card,” he said.
In response to the questions, Noma Mbayo from Right2Know said, “The new card will not allow for any deductions. But we are not saying that your loans will fall away. If you did take out a loan, it is your responsibility to complete those payments.”
Mbayo told beneficiaries opting to have their grants paid into their personal bank accounts to be mindful of the bank charges.
After the event, GroundUp sent SASSA some of the questions posed by the beneficiaries. Wahab confirmed that only authorised deductions for life insurance will be allowed on the new card. No life policy deductions will be allowed on child support grants.
“It is a requirement for any social grant beneficiary to give SASSA permission to deduct a funeral policy from their social grant. Once the details of the beneficiary are captured on the SASSA system, the funeral policy will be deducted monthly,” she said. Wahab said the card swapping process began in May and would continue until September.
Asked what would happen to the beneficiaries with pending loans on their EasyPay Everywhere card, Herman Kotze, CEO of Net1, said that “the only solution” was to retain their current cards or open another banking account to continue payments.
“If a beneficiary has a balance left in his/her [current] account, the beneficiary can withdraw the amount at any ATM or [retail store]. The [current] cards will remain valid until the beneficiary decides to formally close the account and not only until 31 December 2018 as reported widely in the media,” he said.