Social grants: Pensioners complain about deductions for airtime

| Ntombi Mbomvu
The Black Sash held a protest against deductions from social grants in Cape Town last month. Photo by Masixole Feni

Edendale pensioner Phumzile Khumalo receives a social grant of R1,410 every month. Since last year, she says, airtime has been deducted from her account every month - without her permission.

Khumalo, 66, is one of several social grant beneficiaries in Pietermaritzburg who complain that money is being deducted from their grants without their authorisation, and that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Department of Social Development seem unable to do anything about it.

“Last year it was R90 that was taken from my account,” said Khumalo. “But this year the amount increased to R100.”

“At first I turned a blind eye until I heard other beneficiaries complaining. That is when most of us decided to inquire from the department about the matter. The only thing they tell us is that they are not involved in the matter.” She said the amount deducted for airtime varied from one beneficiary to another. Some beneficiaries were debited for electricity they had not bought, up to R500.

Beneficiaries who spoke to GroundUp said they had no idea who made the deductions and the department of Social Development was failing to provide them with answers. Victims were asked to report the matter to SASSA offices but they had no way to follow up the matter, said Khumalo.

Spokesperson Mbizeni Mdlalose said the department was well aware of the problem and beneficiaries who experienced these deductions must continue reporting the matter to their nearest offices.

“Beneficiaries are more than welcome to visit our offices and report these incidents. We have officials who know how to deal with these matters,” said Mdlalose. He said social grant beneficiaries could call 0800 60 1011 to have the deduction reversed or to report the matter.

Khotso Ndlovu, 25, from Dambuza, told GroundUp that R100 or R200 was being deducted each month from the family’s foster care grant of R1,500. The foster care grants are for two siblings, Ntswaki and Makatso Ndlovu.

“We should be receiving R1,500 but we end up receiving R1,200 or R1,300 a month. I can’t remember the last time we got the actual amount,” said Ndlovu. “The slip shows that an amount of money for airtime that has been deducted from the account. Our deductions started two years ago and we have never made an investigation because it is happening to a lot of people.”

“Two hundred rand can go a long way to people who are needy. We wish that the department could do something and solve this matter. Many people are being robbed,” said Ndlovu.

The Black Sash, which has been monitoring irregular payments from social grants’ recipients bank accounts since 2011, launched a campaign in 2013 to end these deductions. The organisation has called on SASSA to take over the administration and payment of the grants itself; to put in place a recourse system for victims of unauthorised deductions; to make Cash Paymaster Services, which currently pays out the grants, its holding company Net1 and Grindrod Bank responsible for the disputed deductions which should be refunded with bank charges and interest; and to protect the confidential and personal information of grant beneficiaries so that they are not vulnerable to companies making deductions.

“Beneficiaries must receive the full cash value of the grant,” said the Black Sash.

TOPICS:  Civil Society National

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