Durban -

Pensioners and those receiving welfare grants from the government are baffled by deductions from their monthly payouts for airtime they say they have not bought.

Although the problem appears widespread, the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) KwaZulu-Natal spokesman, Themba Masondo, dismissed claims that the deductions were a scam targeting vulnerable people.

Each case had to be investigated separately.

In most cases, Masondo said, younger members of a family used the pensioner’s card number to buy airtime, and this was then deducted from the pension.

Beauty Mkhize, 63, of Pietermaritzburg, said she noticed in October that her husband was receiving R100 less on his pension. When they enquired at the payment centre he was told it was for airtime - which he had not bought.

Mkhize said a month later R100 was taken off her pension.

In January, she reported the problem to Sassa in Edendale.

She was told to write an affidavit saying money was being taken from her pension, without her consent, for airtime she knew nothing about. Mkhize did so, but R100 has continued to be deducted each month.

A 54-year-old woman from Hillcrest, said in an affidavit that monthly deductions of varying amounts had been made against her child’s grant, and had been credited as airtime to an unknown cell number.

“This has not and has never been my cellphone number and I have received no benefit from these airtime deductions,” she said.

- Anyone experiencing similar problems should contact a Sassa office.

The Mercury