The Salvation Army on Thursday expressed their concern over the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) ability to pay social grants after its current contract expires in March 2018.
Earlier this year‚ the Constitutional Court ruled that the Department of Social Development and Sassa had failed to find alternative grant payment partners‚ despite being ordered by the court to do so. The court then ordered the invalid contract with Cash Paymaster Services be extended until March 2018.
The panel of experts appointed by the Constitutional Court to report on Sassa’s progress said that there was ‘virtually no likelihood’ of Sassa appointing service providers in time to allow the issuance of new Sassa cards and the implementation of a new beneficiary enrolment system and cash distribution pay points by April 1, 2018.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini promised that a social grants distribution agreement would be signed by September 20, yet declined to appear before Parliament to explain why the deadline was missed.
Earlier this week Sassa made an offer to the South African Post Office to assist with the nationwide social grants scheme. In a joint Parliamentary meeting on Tuesday evening, MPs heard that the offer only included one of four possible services the Post Office will perform for Sassa.
The Post Office has until Thursday to respond. However, a letter dated Friday, October 20, showed that the Post Office has already responded to Sassa's offer.
The Post Office would only accept the deal if three other conditions were approved as well. If not, they would revert to an original offer made to the Post Office by former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza in July.
Sassa payment cards are also due to expire on December 31, although Sassa has given assurance that the cards will continue to be accepted at all retailers, irrespective of the expiry dates printed on them.
Salvation Army Southern Africa PR Secretary Major Carin Holmes said it was unacceptable that the cards will expire without replacements being available.
The organisation has expressed its disquiet over numerous aspects of the process that have been made public so far, saying Sassa did not inspire confidence that it would meet the requirements imposed on it earlier this year by the Constitutional Court.
Holmes said the importance of grant payments should never be underestimated in a country with high levels of poverty and unemployment.
“The poorest of the poor simply do not have the capacity to absorb even one day’s delay in payment of their grants,” said Holmes.