I was hopeful yesterday’s meeting of national Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu and Members of the Executive Council (MINMEC) would provide the answers I’ve been seeking regarding issues plaguing the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
But it seems I and the millions of SASSA beneficiaries must wait longer for answers and actions.
I raised the dire situation and the need for us to discuss it during the MINMEC meeting, the first for 2023 after I wrote I wrote to Minister Zulu about the numerous issues SASSA beneficiaries were experiencing with poor services from Postbank and I am gravely concerned that these issues are worsening.
Although Minister Zulu yesterday admitted it is a problem that requires attention, she said she was dissatisfied with information provided to her by SASSA, and thus wants to give the entity time to prepare to provide proper feedback at another engagement.
I welcome Minister Zulu’s commitment to a stand-alone engagement with SASSA, but it must happen with urgency. Every day that there is a delay in dealing with these issues millions of our citizens in this province experience unnecessary hardship. I will not remain silent on this issue while SASSA leaves our most vulnerable in limbo.
These are some of the issues that require solutions:
- Numerous challenges hampering beneficiaries from accessing SASSA financial support:
- People are unable to access SASSA via its call centres, Whatsapp or email contacts. SASSA says it is mainly working online, which creates a great divide between it and its clients, many of whom are from poor households where internet access is limited.
- Beneficiaries who can access the online system, say they are “kicked out” before their application is complete.
- Some SASSA offices country-wide are more offline than online, eg. At a SASSA office in Soshanguve (which is a large office due to the size of the feeder area), many of the staff must share one laptop due to the system frequently being offline. People in the queue are often sent away due to the system failures. SASSA needs to ensure there are generators to keep its system functional during loadshedding. People who are sent away are vulnerable and do not have the means to travel to SASSA again on another day. Another example: In December 2022, SASSA officials in Bellville said their main challenge is loadshedding. This greatly hinders services. SASSA offices need generators or UPS/inverters.
- Long queues at SASSA offices
- The Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant processing portal does not work correctly.
- The SRD grant is often paid to beneficiaries in lump-sums, i.e. A beneficiary who was waiting for three months to get their payment because SASSA did not pay them monthly receives a lumpsum. When this beneficiary has to re-apply for the SRD grant after the three months have lapsed, the system declines the application and states that the income of a beneficiary exceeds the threshold (yet the income reflected on their back statement is that of the 3-month pay out from SASSA because of their delayed payments). SASSA thus need to pay beneficiaries EVERY MONTH and fix this problem.
- Numerous complaints are received that SASSA medical doctors are not effective.
- Continuous “system glitches” at Postbank. Postbank is not social grant payment ready.
- SASSA’s turn-around time to provide feedback to questions asked or cases raised by Members of Parliament is too slow.
I will hold Minister Zulu to her commitment of setting up a meeting with SASSA. This engagement must happen soon, as the millions of grant beneficiaries across the country and the Western Cape province can no longer live in limbo.