Traditional leaders fight to keep SASSA cash pay points open

But SASSA says it’s too late

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The decision to phase out SASSA cash points in rural areas has met with opposition from traditional leaders. Archive photo: Barbara Maregele

  • The Council of Traditional Leaders of SA (CONTRALESA) is lobbying the government to reverse its decision to close SASSA pay points in rural areas.
  • Since 2019, cash points have been phased out, as Postbank and SASSA roll out a national payment system in which grants are paid directly into recipients’ personal bank accounts or SASSA Gold/Postbank accounts.
  • But CONTRALESA president Mathupha Mokoena says many pensioners do not know how to use banks.
  • SASSA says it is too late to reverse the decision.

Traditional leaders are lobbying the government to reverse its decision to close SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) pay points in rural areas.

The president of the Council of Traditional Leaders of SA (CONTRALESA) Mathupha Mokoena told GroundUp that he recently phoned Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu. He says he told the minister that pensioners are not happy about the closure of pay points in their communities.

SASSA told Parliament in February 2023 that 142,000 people (about 0.8% of all grant recipients) still make use of cash pay points and another 123,000 collect their money from Post Office branches. Postbank and SASSA have prioritised the rollout of a national payment system in which grants are paid directly into recipients’ personal bank accounts or SASSA Gold/Postbank accounts. Since 2019, cash pay points decreased from 9,671 to 894.

Postbank announced last December that from April 2024 social grant beneficiaries will no longer be able to withdraw their social grants at Post Offices or cash pay points.

Mokoena says pensioners from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga approached him for help after their pay point was closed in March. They are among 300 senior citizens who used to collect their money from the Mathibela Tribal Council.

“I have personally contacted the minister and made her aware of our dissatisfaction. I will write a letter to the President and Parliament about the same matter,” says Mokoena.

He says the closure of the pay points was an “error of judgment” by the leadership of the department of social development, and CONTRALESA would mobilise to oppose the closure.

Mokoena says in remote areas transport to banks and ATMs is difficult and pensioners would battle to collect their grants. “The majority of our senior citizens have never been inside a bank or ATM ever since they were born and the majority of them can’t even operate an ATM.”

Department of Social Development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant did not confirm or deny that Mokoena had spoken to the Minister. She referred GroundUp to SASSA.

SASSA spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi says it is too late to challenge the decision now.

“It would cost the government billions of rands to reverse this decision. It would be illogical to revert to legacy systems that take us backwards. Also reverting only for the last few people who were affected by closures would be unfair for the 99.6% of our clients who have already adapted to this change over the last five years.”

“In any change, we understand that there will be a few people unhappy with this, and we are open to continue conversing with them to encourage change.”

Letsatsi urged pensioners who are unable to collect their grants personally to appoint a procurator to collect the money on their behalf. He says their nearest SASSA office can assist them on how to appoint a procurator.

“This option simplifies the grant payments process for the frail, people with disabilities and the elderly,” he said.

TOPICS:  Social Grants

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