“System glitch” stalls social grant payments to pensioners

Postbank says problem has mostly been resolved

By Qaqamba Falithenjwa and Ella Morrison

6 September 2023

Pensioners at Blue Route mall in Cape Town waited for hours for their grant money. Photos: Qaqamba Falithenjwa

A technical glitch on Postbank’s payment system left thousands of pensioners across the country without their grants on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Grant recipients could not access their money from retailers and ATMs. The SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) said payments through Post Office branches were not affected.

After the SA Post Office took over the payments of social grants, SASSA and the Post Office urged beneficiaries to collect their grants at retailers and ATMs on payment days to avoid long queues outside post offices. But several glitches have affected grant payments.

GroundUp was contacted on Tuesday by pensioners waiting at retail stores and ATMs in Blue Route Mall in Tokai, Cape Town, to collect their grant. When we arrived at midday, we were told at the stores that “the system was offline”. Scores of elderly people were waiting in long queues.

Provincial SASSA spokesperson Shivani Wahab said the “glitch” had only affected pensioners who withdraw their grants at ATMs and retailers. She said transactions made with the SASSA gold card within Post Office branches were not affected..

Wahab said: “SASSA was advised by Postbank of intermittent technical issues experienced with social grant payments today.”

At the front of the line inside the mall was 67-year-old Jonathan Cedras. He said he had arrived at 6:30am and had been waiting over six hours to collect his 87-year-old mother’s grant. “My mother used to come with me, but she’s old and can’t stand for too long.

“We’re standing in this queue and don’t have an answer as to what is going on. We just heard this morning that the system is offline,” said Cedras. He said people in the queue had not been told when the system would be back online and many were uncertain whether to return home empty-handed or to wait.

“The grant is my mother’s only source of income,” he said.

Pensioners queued at Checkers for their money.

Monica Ballie, 75, was standing at the back of the line with her great-grandchild. “We have been standing here since 8am and we can’t even buy something to eat because we’re not getting the money we’re here for. I’m diabetic, I’m hungry and I have to wait for money for food. It’s not right,” said Ballie.

“I have two children in the house, they are not working. Only my pension feeds us,” said Loretta Jackson, 60.

A taxi driver outside the mall said some pensioners had to walk home because they could not pay the return fare without their grant money.

In a statement at midday on Wednesday, Postbank said that a technical issue which intermittently affected withdrawals on Tuesday had been resolved for all ATM and Post Office branch transactions. “This means that SASSA customers using the SASSA Gold Cards can now immediately access their social grants via ATMs and Post Office branches,” said Postbank spokesperson Bongani Diako.

“Postbank’s technical teams are working on restoring the transactions inside the retailers as there are still intermittent challenges with transactions through this channel.”

The Black Sash said many beneficiaries had been forced to stay overnight at payment sites because they could not afford to travel twice.

“SASSA has a duty to keep beneficiaries properly informed as well as aiding beneficiaries who will now sleep on pavements because they cannot afford to go home. We are witnessing beneficiaries moving from one ATM to another, desperately trying to access their grants.” Black Sash said the Minister of Social Development and SASSA must urgently deal with technical challenges with SAPO and Postbank.