Civil society groups have reacted with concern following the South African Social Security Agency and Postbank announcing that they will be phasing out cash withdrawals of social grants in post offices from next month.
CIVIL society groups have reacted with concern following the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and Postbank announcing that they will be phasing out cash withdrawals of social grants in post offices from next month, January 2024.
Sassa and Postbank said in a statement that the move was part of a broader strategy to improve the quality of cash withdrawal services for all social grants recipients.
“Physical cash payment points (CPPs) and cash withdrawal of social grants inside post offices will be phased out. The phasing-out process will be implemented in a staggered way starting in January 2024. It is planned that by March 31, 2024, all CPPs and Post Office branch grants payments would have stopped.”
A provincial director of Black Sash, Evashnee Naidu, said that the human rights organisation had been monitoring the closure of cash pay points since the inception of the contract with the South African Post Office.
“We have tracked the experience of, in particular, elderly and vulnerable beneficiaries who have had their community cash pay points closed and the negative impact this has had on their lives in terms of financial costs and due to fear of using technology.”
Naidu added that while they understood the move to transition to a more cost-effective and efficient cash payment system, the needs of beneficiaries needed to be considered.
“We urge Sassa and Postbank to not lose sight of the 450,000 beneficiaries across the country who will be impacted by this transition.
“We urge the government to help affected communities to ensure a dignified transition for them to access their grants with as little burden as possible.”
Wafaa Abdurahman, national co-ordinator for Fight Inequality Alliance SA, said that the most impoverished and those in the rural areas would be most affected.
“I just think about the community members in the rural areas, how will they manage with this transition as they will have to go to retailers and ATMS which are many miles from their homes.
“The grant that they are receiving is already so little and they will have to use large amounts of transport money just to get their grants. It’s clear that the gap between the rich and the poor is being exacerbated.”
Sassa and Postbank said that gold card social grant recipients using CPPs and Post Office branches would be able to use their cards at any place that accepts a bank card.
“This includes making purchases at any retailer that has a point of sale to swipe for goods, or withdrawing funds from any retailer that provides a cash-back functionality, as well as existing Postbank cash withdrawals channels in the form of any bank ATM, or any of the five partner retailers Boxer, Pick n Pay, Spar, Shoprite, Usave and Checkers.”
They said factors such as escalating cash-in-transit heists, unfavourable conditions at some of the CPP sites, and the closure and capacity challenges at many Post Office branches were among the reasons for the decision.