Black Sash petitions social development minister to oversee SASSA

The civil society organisation lists numerous issues with social grant payments it says need to be addressed urgently

By Liezl Human

14 June 2023

A South African Social Security Agency van at Parliament. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

The Black Sash has handed over a petition to the Department of Social Development (DSD) calling on Minister Lindiwe Zulu to introduce a permanent universal basic income grant and to set up a task team to oversee the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

The Black Sash petition notes various issues with grant payments, including: the shrinking footprint of cash pay points, post offices closing, post office pay points and ATMs running out of cash, no loadshedding contingency plans, and no clear plan to replace expired SASSA cards.

Since handing over the petition in May, the Black Sash has met with the minister to discuss these challenges, which it detected through its community-based monitoring of grant payments, said Black Sash advocacy manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker.

The Black Sash told Minister Zulu their work on the ground has found that grant beneficiaries are experiencing disruptions with accessing their grants through SASSA and post offices.

“Social grants are fundamental to beneficiaries as they provide a lifeline for grant beneficiaries to be able to afford their basic needs,” the organisation stated in its petition. Yet many beneficiaries encounter delays in receiving their grants, often have to travel long distances, and have to wait for their grants in queues without having access to any seating or ablution facilities.

Abrahams-Fayker said they had implored both the DSD and SASSA “to find alternative ways for grant beneficiaries to receive their full grants on time and give access to those struggling to get social grants”.

Civil society organisations, including the Black Sash, have been pushing hard for the introduction of a basic income support, set at least at the upper-bound poverty line (currently R1,417).

“While we acknowledge most governmental processes take time, basic income support is an urgent matter and should be immediately prioritised by government,” said Abrahams-Fayker.

The DSD submitted a draft policy that includes several proposals on basic income to working committees for consideration in April, but a final decision has not been made on the introduction of the grant.

DSD spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said the department couldn’t yet discuss the “work done” because it still has to go through the governmental process.

Oliphant said, “The Minister met with Black Sash the day after they handed over the memorandum and reiterated her commitment to replying to them.”