Grant recipients unable to renew their cards as expiry date looms

Social grant beneficiaries are worried they won’t be paid in two weeks

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SASSA beneficiaries wait for hours outside the Ga-Rankuwa office after being turned away at their local post offices. They say the Post Office is running out of new cards as many of their gold SASSA/Postbank cards are to expire soon. Photo: Chris Gilili

  • Social grant beneficiaries in Pretoria and Cape Town are worried that they won’t be paid in two weeks.
  • Most of their South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)/Postbank gold cards are expiring at the end of April and delays at post offices appear to be causing panic among recipients.
  • Last month SASSA told beneficiaries whose cards have expired or are expiring soon, to visit their closest post office to collect a new card.
  • We spoke to several grant recipients outside the Ga-Rankuwa branch who have been turned away a few times without being assisted. While in Cape Town, beneficiaries complained about fingerprint identification issues.

Social grant beneficiaries in Pretoria and Cape Town have expressed their frustration and are worried that they won’t be paid in two weeks. Most of their South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)/Postbank gold cards are expiring at the end of April and delays at post offices appear to be causing panic among recipients.

In Ga-Rankuwa, near Pretoria, recipients told GroundUp on Thursday that they have been struggling to renew their cards after being turned away a few times from post offices in Ga-Rankuwa.

Last month SASSA advised beneficiaries whose cards have expired or are expiring soon, to visit their closest post office to collect a new card. However, not all of the post offices are able to offer card exchange services.

When we visited the local SASSA office at 1pm, there was a snaking queue outside, with mostly older people. We were told that people in Ga-Rankuwa were panicking because the only post office in the area does not have enough of the new cards.

Lebohang Makola from Zone 1 said she arrived at the office at 7am on Thursday, but had still not been assisted by 1:30pm. “This is my second time here. Yesterday I arrived around 6:10am. By lunchtime they turned us all away because they said they don’t have enough cards. I’m so worried that I won’t get my children’s grant at the end of the month if my card is not renewed. This is so bad,” said Makola.

Disability grant recipient Karabo Ralikutu, who is from Mabopane, said she was also turned away on Wednesday. “I spent R90 coming here, which I borrowed from a loan shark in our area. I was supposed to collect my medication at hospital, but I could not because I need to fix this. I had borrowed money again today because there is no SASSA branch in Mabopane,” she said.

“I survive on this grant, so the thought of being unable to get it is very depressing. I’m risking my life being here as I suffer from seizures,” said Ralikutu.

A post office employee in Ga-Rankuwa, who asked that they not be named, told GroundUp that staff are also frustrated that they are running out of cards and are having to turn away scores of people daily. “It’s been more than two weeks now. We don’t know when we will have them. We have advised people to go to the post office in Klipgat [over 17 kms away]. Besides the cards, we are always battling with loadshedding at this branch and can’t serve people properly,” she said.

SASSA beneficiaries wait in line outside its office in Bellville on Thursday after widespread reports of problems with fingerprint identification. Photo: Vincent Lali

Meanwhile in Cape Town, beneficiaries in Bellville and Brackenfell say post offices have apparently not been able to capture their fingerprints. This is one of the requirements when being issued with a new SASSA/Postbank card.

Disability grant recipient Karen Pekeur from Scottsdene said she went to the Brackenfell Post Office because her current card expires next week. “But I can’t get it because the system can’t pick up my fingerprints.”

She was one of about 100 people who came to the branch because they needed new cards, though officials only gave tickets to 50 of them, stating that they could only assist a limited number of people, said Pekeur.

Shaheema Matjiet, who stays with her husband and four children in Delft, braved the cold and wet conditions with other beneficiaries outside the SASSA office in Bellville. She said staff at the post office in Parow told her the system could not pick up her fingerprints and therefore could not issue her with a new card. Officials told me to get a new card now, otherwise I won’t be able to get my kids’ grant,” she said.

Matjiet, who works as a furniture maker in Kensington, said she spent R150 to travel to SASSA in Bellville and to the Parow Post Office and then back home. “I borrow money from neighbours who make me use my children’s grant to pay them back with interest,” said Matjiet.

“The money I earn as a part-time furniture maker is too little to support my kids, so I desperately need the new card,” she said.

Wendy Pekeur, co-founder of Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement said, “People wait in long lines from early in the morning. Yesterday people had no access to water and toilets while they waited to be assisted. Lines are long because people flock to the Brackenfell Post Office because other nearby post offices have closed.”

SASSA spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said, “SASSA is aware of the challenges that some grants recipients are experiencing when they visit the post office branches to replace their expiring/expired cards due to some post office branches being closed and in some there is a shortage of cards.”

Letsatsi said Postbank is “working tirelessly to seek alternative measures”.

“If clients feel that they are frustrated by the Postbank, they have a choice to wait for Postbank to resolve all its problems or can choose another bank. SASSA is unable to decide for any client, but the choice is out there for clients to exercise,” said Letsatsi.

Postbank said that it “is exploring different avenues to make sure that our recipients don’t get inconvenienced. So as soon as we have finalised everything, we will make an announcement”.

TOPICS:  Sassa Social Grants

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