Black Sash steps up ‘Hands off our grants’ campaign

‘Hands off our grants’ protesters outside St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, today. Picture by Masixole Feni.

Pasqua Heard

15 October 2015

On Thursday, over 1,000 people attended a silent protest held by the Black Sash at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town. A similar protest was held at Mopanye Mall, Soweto, in which 120 people attended. There was also a picket, held with the Right2Know, on Tuesday outside the Mitchells Plain Sassa Office. The protests are part of the Black Sash and partners’ ‘Hands off our grants’ (HOOG) campaign.

Brenton van Vrede, Chief Director Social Assistance at the Department of Social Development, accepted a memorandum of demands at the cathedral.

Black Sash has been concerned about deductions being made to the accounts of beneficiaries of social grants. The organisation has highlighted that after deductions for funeral policies, airtime and loans, many social grant recipients are left out of pocket.

Read more on the grant deductions controversy.

Based on a ruling made by the Constitutional Court last year, Sassa (South Africa Social Security Agency) had until today to announce its new tender for social grant payments in South Africa. The current tender holder Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a respondent in the Constitutional Court has not applied for the new tender

“We are still waiting to hear if Sassa has appointed a bidder. If Sassa appoints a bidder, we want to make sure that the bank account doesn’t allow any deductions. If Sassa does not appoint a bidder today, it has to go to the Constitutional Court with a plan as to how it will take over the payment of grants,” said Lynette Maart, National Director of the Black Sash.

Commenting on the turnout of the silent protest in Cape Town, Maart said, “I think the protest went well. I was surprised by how many people came … Amongst us were members of KOOR (now Siyafunda Community Trust) who first notified us of the phenomena of the deductions [from their Sassa accounts] in 2013. They told us how people would go to ATMs at night wrapped in blankets, ready to withdraw their funds as soon as they reached their bank accounts.”

“We had a very strategically designed protest in Soweto. The crowd was made up of beneficiaries, organisations that work with the elderly, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa amongst others,” said Elroy Paulus, National Advocacy Manager of the Black Sash.

Funeral industry adviser, Johan Rousseau, is however concerned about Black Sash’s demands. On his website, he writes that the demand to stop all funeral policy deductions, even those offered by legally registered insurers, may result in grant recipients being “subjected to loan sharks and others operating in an unregulated environment.”