Concerns over SASSA gold card replacement plan
The SASSA crisis continues to get progressively worse.
In February I met with SASSA management to discuss a laundry list of problems which my team and I picked up during oversight visits at SASSA offices across the province, and from the numerous complaints our office received from grant beneficiaries.
Today I had a follow-up meeting with SASSA Western Cape management, with more issues on the agenda, especially given the chaos we witnessed in Grassy Park this week.
SASSA has informed beneficiaries who are using Postbank-issued gold cards, which expire soon, to either replace the card at identified South African Post Office (SAPO) branches or alternative venues provided by Postbank, or participating retailers. The other option is to do cardless withdrawals.
But with many SAPO branches closed and a lack of communication about alternative venues, scores of beneficiaries are in limbo, as we’ve seen this week. The City of Cape Town graciously opened the Grassy Park Civic Centre for the Post Office’s use for a limited time. Grant beneficiaries who found no joy at SAPO service points in other areas were apparently sent to Grassy Park Civic Centre, which exacerbated the situation, leading to even longer queues for the most vulnerable members of our society.
I have implored SASSA officials to find an urgent solution to assist beneficiaries living in areas where Post Office service points are closed, and who may not want to go the cardless withdrawal route. The SASSA officials have assured us this will receive their urgent attention, and we will hold them to it.
SASSA has also outlined a mitigation plan to deal with the gold card replacement situation, as the majority of the 5.9 million beneficiaries in the country (396 903 of which reside in the Western Cape) who have these cards will need to replace them by June 2023. This includes dedicated queues for card replacements, additional staff, and extended operational hours. While this may look good in theory, SASSA needs to show its commitment to improving services by implementing its plan expeditiously.
Among the issues we raised with SASSA:
- Challenges with SAPO and Postbank;
- Winter Readiness and Loadshedding Mitigation;
- Disability grants Backlog and the number of medical doctors conducting assessments;
- Pay points across the province.
Communication between SASSA and beneficiaries needs to improve, drastically, especially around the gold card replacement issue. There are elderly beneficiaries, those with disabilities, those living in far-flung rural areas, who may have no idea how to go about doing cardless cash withdrawals and are now panicking because they do not know where to replace their cards.
There seems to be a huge disconnect between SASSA, SAPO, and Postbank, an issue which requires urgent attention on a national level.
I once again call on the national minister of social development, Lindiwe Zulu, as I have been doing continuously for nearly a year, to do her part to assist the most vulnerable.