The Black Sash has added its voice against the spate of unauthorised, undocumented and illegal debit deductions from the bank accounts or smart cards of beneficiaries from the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) allegedly by outsourced contactor, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and holding company Net 1 since the introduction of the biometric system in 2012.
According to the Black Sash's, Ms Ratula Beukman social assistance, as enshrined in Section 27 of the Constitution, provides a vital income for millions of South African households trapped in a binary of poverty and inequality, unable to provide for their own needs and those of dependants. Approximately 15 million people benefitting from social grants have become the target of commercially motivated and unscrupulous credit by financial service providers, who use confidential personal information, entrusted to our government.
"The unauthorised, undocumented and unlawful debit deductions crisis fuelled by greed and excessive profits is eroding the mandate and integrity of the social security system. It is also eroding the gains made towards the progressive realisation of social security over the past 20 years since our democracy. Thousands of beneficiaries are experiencing increased hardship and now struggle to pay for food, rent, transport and other basic needs due to these deductions, seriously compromising human dignity;" Beukman elaborated.
As early as 2011, the Black Sash and partners began to uncover violations of norms and standards at Sassa pay points, and found increasing evidence of irregular, unauthorised and undocumented third party debit deductions from Sassa beneficiaries' bank accounts. In 2012, largely as a result of the service level agreement between Sassa and CPS/Net 1, debit deductions of social grants increased drastically. Furthermore, CPS's recourse system remains ineffective, adding additional burden and cost to social grant beneficiaries, Beukman alleges.
The Stop Sassa/CPS Debits campaign launched in 2013 by the Black Sash and supported by various civil partners, draws attention to the crisis of debit deductions from social assistance grants. For a period of a year, Black Sash has registered concerns with national government using information generated form desperate calls to their helpline, the Legal Resources Centre and community advice offices across South Africa. Beukman added that whilst Black Sash is encouraged by government's acknowledgement that matters are seriously wrong — actions to remedy the crisis are inadequate and slow.
Speaking on behalf of Sassa Limpopo, the agency's Head of Communications, Mr Norman Kutama said Sassa does not sell, endorse or support any product including airtime and loans from service providers.
Beneficiaries with unauthorised deductions on their Sassa cards can call 0800 60 01 60 to have them reversed.