Post Office fails SASSA beneficiaries

June social grant payments not processed at many branches

By Liezl Human

13 June 2022

Mdantsane Post Office in East London in January 2021. Archive photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Social grant beneficiaries have been struggling to access their funds at South African Post Office branches since June payments started.

Civil society organisation Black Sash says some Post Office branches were unable to process payments due to issues with connectivity and biometric authentication, cash shortages and security issues.

The Black Sash says South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries are forced to bear the brunt of the Post Office’s inefficiencies, such as cash shortages.

Black Sash monitors picked up issues at Post Office branches in Standerton in Mpumalanga, Kariega in the Eastern Cape, and in Pietermaritzburg, Howick and Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu-Natal.

In a recent parliamentary meeting, SASSA said that only about 5% of its beneficiaries are affected by Post Office payment processing issues.

In response to GroundUp questions, SASSA Spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said that there are no beneficiaries “locked into” a specific payment access. “The beneficiaries can access their funds as and when convenient for them,” said Letsatsi. The Post Office is merely one channel; they have a choice which payment method they want to use; and they “are not confined to the Post Office branches only”, he said.

Of the seven million beneficiaries who use the SASSA card to receive their grants, fewer than 500,000 have been accessing their grants from a Post Office branch, he said.

But the Black Sash says this is not a valid justification. Many elderly people and people with disabilities use Post Office branches as a primary means of accessing their grant, which is “an option legally guaranteed to them by SASSA”.

Where the Post Office has been unable to process payments, these beneficiaries have had to seek alternate payment channels and incur additional costs.

According to Mfanafuthi Gumede of the KwaMakhutha Community Resource Centre, who monitored a Post Office branch in Amanzimtoti, beneficiaries stand in line for hours before they are paid. Many arrive at 5am to secure a place in the queue.

Gumede said that there were no toilets or running water at the branch, and this is “disrespectful” and “shameful” considering that many of the beneficiaries are elderly or disabled.

Gumede also said that there needs to be more security at the branch on pay dates. He said there was a hijacking right outside the branch and that someone was shot while about 60 beneficiaries were waiting to be paid earlier this month.

It was a disability grant pay date. “Can you imagine people who are disabled running for their lives?” said Gumede.

Post Office spokesperson Johan Kruger confirmed that the branch had to close until the area was declared safe after the hijacking. He said that the branch has since been opened again.

Kruger said, “There are more than 1,200 post offices nationally so problems do occur at some of these points.”

“The Post Office has a national system that oversees service levels and takes action to rectify matters when problems occur,” said Kruger.

Last month the Post Office announced that it will no longer pay the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant in order to reduce queues at its branches.