Hands off Our Grants 

To stop the unauthorised, unlawful, fraudulent and immoral debit deductions from the SASSA bank accounts of social grant beneficiaries, and protect their confidential data.

Black Sash, supported by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) successfully filed an urgent application with the South African Constitutional Court in March 2017, when it became apparent that South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) would be unable to pay social grants to 17 million beneficiaries on 01 April 2017.

The Court made the following order:

  • Granted an extension of the CPS contract for a year, ending 31 March 2018, to avoid a national crisis;
  • SASSA to put systems in place to protect the confidential information of grant recipients.
  • SASSA was to develop and roll out a plan for the future payment of grants post March 2018.
  • The Constitutional Court to resume its supervision over SASSA. A panel of Experts was established to consider SASSA reports and track progress with recommendations to the Court.
  • Minister Dlamini was to provide reasons for why she should not be held personally liable for legal costs. The Section 38 Enquiry started on 22 January 2018 and will be concluded in the first quarter of 2018.
SASSA has adopted a ‘hybrid social grant payment model, which is still very unclear to many grant recipients. The South African Post Office (SAPO) was appointed by SASSA in November 2017 to take over the SASSA bank accounts of 6.8 million grant recipients from Grindrod Bank. SASSA has also issued a new tender for cash payments, affecting 2.9 million recipients and bidders have to make submissions by 28 February 2018. As the deadline of 31 March 2018 looms, SASSA has made an application to the Court seeking an extension of the CPS contract for a further 6 months to continue cash payments.

Negotiations are also underway with commercial banks to provide a low cost banking product to beneficiaries. SASSA should not burden grant recipients with the banking costs. They should receive the full cash value of their grants. The Black Sash and its partners are
continuously monitoring developments on the ground to assess impact and are proactively engaging key entities to ensure that the right to social security is not compromised.

Aim of this campaign

The overall goal is that progress is made towards the implementation of the new hybrid national social grants payment model; grant beneficiaries confidential data is protected; and unauthorised and unlawful deductions are permanently stopped.

The outcomes of the Hands Off Our Grants (HOOG) Campaign are:

  • The future grant payment system ensures that grant beneficiaries receive the full cash value of their grants. 
  • Leadership and governance at state institutions improved.
  • Social grant beneficiaries and CSOs are capacitated to advocate on their own behalf.

Black Sash initiated the Hands Off Our Grants campaign in 2012 in response to one of our NGO partners, KOOR (Katolieke Ontwikkeling Oranjerivier) operating in the Northern Cape. They alerted the Black Sash to large-scale unauthorised debit deductions from the SASSA-branded bank accounts of social grant beneficiaries. Just over 17 million grant beneficiaries are paid through almost eleven million bank accounts.

The Black Sash gathered evidence and made the issue public.

In February 2014, the Minister of the Department of Social Development (DSD) established a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) to explore options to stop the unauthorised, unlawful, fraudulent and/or immoral debit deductions from the SASSA-branded bank accounts.

Black Sash, Association of Community Advice Offices in South Africa (ACAOSA), various other civil society groups and senior officials from SASSA and DSD serve on this MTT.The MTT was mandated to explore ways to stop the deductions and ensure that grant recipients access appropriate recourse and refunds back-dated to 2012.

The team found that deductions were often associated with NET1 subsidiaries for advanced airtime; electricity; water; loans, funerals and prescribed debt via the SASSA created and Grindrod/ Net1-owned grant beneficiaries bank accounts.

“Everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.” - Section 33 of the South African Constitution.