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Confusion reigns over grants


Many of those waiting in the queue questioned why Sassa hadn’t informed them that there was no money to pay out the grants

ABOVE: Piet Mothibi waited at the post office from early yesterday morning and left without receiving his money. Picture: Soraya Crowie

WHILE Sassa has assured desperate grant recipients, who yesterday continued to stream into the Kimberley Post Office, that they will be paid, many returned home with empty purses due to technical glitches.

While beneficiaries faced another day of long queues, they were provided with soup and bread, as well as chairs, to make the wait more bearable, but many were again told that there was no money to pay them.

“Sassa must tell us what is going on. We are being sent from pillar to post but receive no answers from anyone,” one grant recipient said. “We are spending a lot of money coming here each time but we still don’t know what is happening with our grant money.”

She stated that she went to the Sassa offices in Kimberley yesterday morning, only to be referred to the post office.

“There they said that there was no money and I had to go to a bank to get my money. I went to three different banks. Sassa officials were on duty at the banks and told us that the banks also couldn’t help us. I don’t know where to go or what to do from here,” she said.

“If they just told us what was happening then we would know. Instead, we have to borrow or beg for money to come into town, only to go home empty-handed.”

At the Kimberley Post Office ome grant recipients indicated that they had been issued with a slip of paper. “We were told to take the slip to a merchant, like Shoprite or Spar, as proof that there is money in our account.”

Beneficiaries said they had been lining up since early in the morning, with several of them returning after being turned away on Monday and Tuesday.

“I only received some on my money when I came here earlier in the week,” one recipient said. “I have come back today for the rest but it doesn’t seem like they will be able to help me.”

Others stated that they had returned yesterday after they realised that their cards had still not been activated, while one woman said her card was swallowed by the ATM.

Seventy-six-year-old Templeton Fish from Phutanang, who was accompanied by his granddaughter, said he was supposed to receive his payout at an old age home near to where he lives.

“We were told to come to the post office because they couldn’t help us at the old age home. If we do not receive the money today it will be a challenge because my grandfather is in a wheelchair and we have no money to get home,” his granddaughter, Sandy Fish, said.

Many of those waiting in the queue questioned why Sassa hadn’t informed them that there was no money to pay out the grants.

“We could then have made a decision about whether we wanted to queue for these slips of paper or come back another day.”

Piet Mothibi said he had been waiting in the queue the entire morning, but when he got to the front, the person assisting at the counter left. “I was told she had gone for tea. No one could tell me when she would be back again.”

Many said that they had not been properly informed about the new cards.

“Sassa should just give us our old cards back. These are just pieces of plastic and our PINs do not work. I don’t know why Sassa issued these cards if they knew they wouldn’t work.”

Another woman, who had gone to the post office to withdraw her child’s grant money, added that she had been forced to take a day off work. “I came on Tuesday but I couldn’t get the money so I had to come back again. I had to put in a day’s leave.”

Emma van Wyk, who was accompanied by family members from Ritchie, said she had tried to withdraw her grant money in Ritchie but had been told to come into the Sassa offices in Kimberley.

“However, I was told that the supervisor was not there and I was turned away because there was no one to assist me. I do not know what I am supposed to do now.”

Some people expressed concern about their policies and other debit orders which are deducted from their accounts automatically.

“Now that there is no money in my account, what will happen with my policy. Sassa needs to tell us what is going on. Instead we are being sent around town, from one place to another, but no one can help us.”

Meanwhile, grant recipients were also warned to be on the alert for scamsters asking for their cards and PIN numbers.

“This happened to my parents,” one city resident said on social media. “We had to run around to six different places to try sort it out. My parents almost lost all their money and they do not have any income other than their Sassa grant.”

While apologising for the inconvenience to recipients, Sassa in Kimberley pointed out yesterday that beneficiaries at the main post office in Kimberley were served with soup and bread while they waited for their grant money.

The food was donated by the Department of Social Development.

According to Inno Khunou, spokesperson for Sassa Northern Cape, the “technical problems experienced in the grant payment environment was being attended to and a solution should be reached soon.

She added that IT specialists had worked round the clock to resolve the technical glitches and in some areas the problem had already been sorted out.

“Sassa acting CEO, Abram Mahlangu, gave the instruction to issue food vouchers to beneficiaries who were not able to access their grants as a result of the technical challenges. This is Social Relief of Distress (SRD) in the form of a food voucher to the value of R500 while their problem is being sorted out.”

Khunou added that the voucher would enable the beneficiary to provide for basic needs at home, while waiting for Sassa and thepost office to solve the issue.

“We did not want to send our beneficiaries home empty-handed,” she said.

“This SRD is not open to all beneficiaries and mechanisms were put in place to verify the status of beneficiaries.”

Khunou added that reports had been received countrywide where money was reflecting on beneficiaries’ new Sassa cards but they could not withdraw it. “It could be that some do not know how to transact at the ATM or the systems are not interfacing.”

She stated that the decision to direct some beneficiaries to merchants was aimed at minimising the queues at the post office as those merchants could render the same service and also had an added advantage of having three free cash withdrawals, as well as unlimited free swipes, so that beneficiaries could pay for their shopping at tills.

Khunou reminded members of the public that Sassa employees were not allowed to ask beneficiaries for their PIN numbers.

“Beneficiaries must be careful when handling their PIN numbers as scammers will want to cash in on the current problem.”

She said further that social grants could be accessed anywhere and it was not necessary to travel to Kimberley if a beneficiary resided in Ritchie. “There is a Sassa office there and officials are expected to pull all the stops to help them.”

Khunou advised beneficiaries to call the Sassa toll free line with their queries instead of asking for assistance at places that do not administer social grants.

“Sassa and Sapo wish to assure their beneficiaries that they are working full steam to resolve the technical challenge and will make sure each beneficiary is paid once the glitch is resolved.”

The acting CEO of Sassa, Abraham Mahlangu, said yesterday that the glitch being experienced was as a result of a process of changing from an old to a new payment system for social grants.

“Sassa is also in a process of phasing out Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) as directed by the Constitutional Court and introducing the South African Post Office to pay social grants”, Mahlangu said.

He assured beneficiaries that their social grants would be paid in full. “In fact, the funds are already in their accounts. We request beneficiaries to give themselves at least three days to withdraw their grants.

“Should a beneficiary choose to access their funds through an ATM, the account type should be a savings account – in the event of the savings option being rejected, the beneficiary can then choose the cheque account option.”