Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu's admission that technical "failures" at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) "threatened the lives" of social grant beneficiaries has drawn calls for recipients to receive their money from private banks.
This comes a week after the older person's grant was meant to be paid out but thousands of recipients are yet to receive their money.
Speaking in the social development parliamentary portfolio committee on Wednesday, Zulu said that, for the majority of beneficiaries and their dependents, social grants are "the only form of income upon which their livelihood is founded".
She was reacting to what she called "failed" Postbank systems that erroneously recorded insufficient funds in thousands of old-age grant recipients' accounts, causing angst among those who depend on the monthly State income. The old-age grant is nearly R2 100.
Zulu said the "technical glitches" began when the SA Post Office and its subsidiary, Postbank, adopted a new payment system in October 2022.
"Prior to the implementation of the switch, grant beneficiaries experienced neither withdrawal failures nor funds deductions from their accounts," Zulu told the committee.
"Needless to mention, these technical glitches are threatening the lives and livelihoods of our people, and undermining the relationship of trust in our communities."
But this was dismissed by Democratic Alliance MP Alexandra Abrahams, who encouraged grant recipients to "ditch the Postbank", which is one of 21 banks used by Sassa to disburse payments.
Postbank opens accounts for beneficiaries who don't have them – which is about 40% of social services beneficiaries.
Abrahams said she believed it was time for beneficiaries to consider using other banks.
"While the minister [Zulu] has been focused on nefarious schemes to assist comrades, she has woefully failed in her mandate to serve South Africa's poorest and most vulnerable citizens. It is time she showed some leadership and called Postbank to account for its continued failures of Sassa beneficiaries," Abrahams said.