The burden of payment system failures should not be placed beneficiaries.

This week, Governments social grant system failure left hundreds of thousands of elderly pensioners destitute and without dignity.

Cape Town, Thursday 07 September 2023; The ongoing technical issues faced by the social grant payment system administered by South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and Postbank remain deeply problematic. The burden of which is placed on desperate beneficiaries who are unable to access their grants.

This week’s system error on Postbank’s payment system prevented thousands of pensioners across the country from accessing their social grants at retailers and banks This system error was attributed to ongoing IT improvements needed to maintain the integrity of the payment system. This is not a new occurrence but has been an ongoing issue since November 2022 when Postbank took over the payment of grants from the South African Post Office (SAPO).

Rachel Bukasa, director of Black Sash says: “from the start Postbank’s system has not been designed to adequately administer the payment of social grants. We worry that there was a failure by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and SASSA, prior to partnering with Postbank, did not do a proper due diligence to determine whether Postbank had the capacity, expertise and infrastructure to administer the payment of social grants.”

Black Sash remains gravely concerned about the impact these technical issues have on beneficiaries across the country. “We can report that many beneficiaries have still not received their grants and have resorted to staying over at local payment sites as they simply cannot afford to return once again to retrieve their grant. Beneficiaries are frustrated and desperate as they cannot purchase necessities such as food or electricity. This is a grave injustice and a breach of the Constitutional obligation to deliver grants,” says Bukasa.

Although Postbank has assured beneficiaries that it is working to rectify the current issue and it had hoped it would be resolved yesterday (06 September 2023), the reversals are not reflecting in many of the beneficiary bank accounts which prevents monies being available for withdrawal. Added to this, Postbank is concerned that their system could be overwhelmed and has asked beneficiaries to give the system time to settle before trying to withdraw their grants. Therefore, it remains unclear when beneficiaries will have access to their grants and be able to live and meet their basic needs.

“We would like to stress that there is a Constitutional obligation to provide social assistance. The failure to deliver social grants is a breach of this obligation, of which the responsibility lies with DSD and SASSA, therefore these entities must be held accountable. We demand that both DSD and SASSA as a matter of priority, outline exactly how it will ensure the integrity of the social grant payment system going forward, so that the burden of system failures is no longer placed on beneficiaries,” concludes Bukasa.