Nearly 2.3 million social grant recipients have fallen victim to an alarming trend of deductions in recent months, which local advocacy group Black Sash has blamed on unscrupulous lenders within the social grants system. VOC News has been inundated with complaints from community members, who have been the victim of these deductions. Black Sash has attributed the issued to usury costs, with certain companies taking advantage of beneficiaries who purchase airtime or electricity on loan, by deducting monies before they reach the recipients bank account, usually at high interest rates.
According to the group's advocacy manager, Elroy Paulus, of the country's 16 million grant recipients, 10 million were in possession of special Grindrod Bank account. He said the issue boiled down to the fact that those accounts were exclusively managed through a now invalid tender between Cash Paymaster Services and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Of those 10 million, roughly 2.3 million were now being impacted by some form of deduction.
He pinned the blame on companies like EasyPay, Net1, and Grindrod Bank amongst others, saying they were 'working together in a very problematic way', by conducting deductions without the knowledge of the beneficiaries.
Although reluctant to describe the deductions as illegal, he said Black Sash did however view it as highly immoral.
Paulus was concerned that the practice was causing impoverishment in households that were already gripping with the effects of extreme poverty. He further accused the companies in question of 'using the desperation of grant recipients, to aggressively market the sale of airtime, electricity and high interest loans'.
He also urged recipients to be careful with their Sassa cards and not to release any personal account information. This was because upon accessing the social grant services, many recipients were now being prompted to divulge their pin numbers and I.D numbers as well. "That private information is now being traded and stolen. Your identity is being stolen," he suggested.
The minister of social development, Bathabile Dlamini, is set to address the issue of the deductions in parliament on the 10th September.
VOC (Mubeen Banderker)