Ramaphosa wants to corporatise Postbank while it fails to disburse SASSA grants
I have made it my duty to continue applying pressure on my national counterpart, Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to fix the mess that is the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
Over the past few months my office has received complaints from across the Western Cape about beneficiaries experiencing problems with accessing grants, especially where Postbank is concerned. We have also heard of service delivery issues at SASSA offices countrywide.
Last night President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address said Postbank is reviewing its service offerings in a bid to make it a “viable and affordable alternative to the commercial banks.” How on earth can national government consider the corporatization of Postbank if the entity continuously flounders in its handling of SASSA grants?
This is one of the issues I wish to discuss with Minister Zulu and the SASSA management. After numerous letters to her office calling for a meeting with SASS, arrangements are finally being made. But it seems Minister Zulu won’t be attending this engagement, despite admitting the seriousness of the challenges plaguing the Agency. Where do your priorities lie Minister Zulu?
In the meantime, my team and I are conducting unannounced visits to SASSA offices across the province to see what is happening on the ground.
I was disturbed to find that at one branch in the Cape Metro, there were no landline phones working in the office. When my colleague tried calling the 3 cellphone numbers which a SASSA staffer provided, none of these were answered. One of the phones that is supposed to be a conduit for the public to get assistance, was in a drawer…on silent!
Several beneficiaries, most of them elderly citizens, told us about their struggles in accessing grants. A few beneficiaries, who normally withdraw their grant funds from an ATM or retailer, said there was no money in their account. In one case, a woman had bought groceries for her family, only to discover at the till that there were no funds in her account. She had to leave the store empty-handed, embarrassed, and worried about what her family would eat.
We escalated these cases to SASSA. The clients had to wait 2 to 3 days for Postbank to reverse the funds back to their cards so they could collect their grants at a retailer.
At another branch in the Cape Winelands district, several beneficiaries spoke of spending between R50 and R300 on transport just to get to their nearest SASSA office. Some beneficiaries here also complained about SASSA staff members arriving after 08:30 (the office opens at 07:30) and some days they leave at 13:30 (the office closes at 16:00) because they are from a town 33km away and need to clock in and clock out at that branch. A supervisor at this satellite office admitted it’s not an ideal situation and that more staff are needed who reside in the area.
This is just a snapshot of the myriad of problems facing SASSA grant beneficiaries.
Although SASSA is a national government competency, I owe it to the 1.6 million beneficiaries in the Western Cape to ensure their plight is heard and that sustainable solutions are found. I hope Minister Zulu feels the same way and is committed to a transparent engagement and fixing the problems at SASSA as she owes the people of this country that much.
South Africa is facing a humanitarian crisis and SASSA must clean up its act, before it's too late.
Media Liaison Officer
Office of MEC Sharna Fernandez
Department of Social Development
7th Floor, Union House,
14 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town
Tel: 084 775 2975