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Durban - Shoprite Checkers and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) are in talks about proposals to alleviate the month-end chaos and congestion at supermarkets that offer social grant payment services.
Shoprite Checkers this week distanced itself from a report in The Times that suggested it had cancelled its contract to offer this service to grant recipients due to the loss of customers who put off their monthly grocery shopping because of the lengthy queues.
The article said Shoprite Checkers had cancelled its agreement with Cash Payment Services – the subsidiary of Net1 UEPS Technologies – that was awarded, in 2012, a R10 billion contract to distribute social grants to more than 10 million beneficiaries in the next five years.
This week, the supermarket chain denied cancelling the contract, instead saying that it wrote to the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, on February 19 requesting a meeting to discuss moving grant payout days away from weekends and month-end to alleviate congestion at their stores at month-end.
Shoprite spokeswoman, Sarita van Wyk, said the supermarket held a meeting last Friday with Sassa chief executive, Virginia Petersen and Net1 UEPS Technologies. They are expected to meet again to discuss further proposals.
“A date is still to be set. Everything remains as is for the time being,” she said.
Social grant recipients, as of 2012, have Sassa smart payment Mastercards to receive their social grants at any payment channel, such as ATMs, cash pay-points and selected merchant stores such as Shoprite Checkers, Pick n Pay, Boxer Superstores and Spar.
This was introduced to stamp out social grant fraud and corruption.
The card has an embedded chip containing a grant recipient’s personal details, fingerprints and secret PIN. A person’s social grant is loaded on to the card every month.
If a recipient chooses to withdraw the money at a participating supermarket, he or she can go directly to a cashier and request payment.
The card can also be used to purchase goods, at a participating payment vendor having a point-of-sale (POS) device, buy airtime, pay water and electricity accounts, or open accounts.
Daily News readers have complained through BackChat about the chaos at supermarkets at the beginning of the month.
Chatsworth resident Jay Pillay complained that the grant payouts at Shoprite Chatsworth is “a nightmare for ordinary shoppers”.
Pillay said he tried shopping at the store on March 1, 2, 3 and 4 and left without buying anything because the queue in every aisle was too long.
“Previously, the store tried one dedicated till point for pensioners, but they needed more staff. I can see they’re doing their best, but they need to be more organised. Many people shop on their lunch breaks and can’t wait in these long queues,” he said.
Merebank pensioner Lydia Reddy said she still chose to collect her pension at her local community centre, a pension paypoint, because the queues are too long at the supermarkets. The community centre has seats and shelter for them while they wait, whereas the supermarkets often have queues that run into the street before the store opens.
Shoprite has 370 stores that are payment vendors and have said recipients eager to receive their grants to put food on the table often queue from as early as 6am on the first day of every month.
“Because of the huge number of people lining up for grants in certain stores, it has on occasion occurred that all customers could not be served by closing time; resulting in customers who have spent the whole day queuing, returning home empty-handed,” said Van Wyk.
“(We) are trying to get proposals heard for amending the dates of payout to make the process more bearable for grant recipients.”
Sassa spokesman, Kgomoco Diseko, said that while it pays grants from the first of every month, it urges beneficiaries not to rush to make withdrawals at stores on the first because their money can be accessed on any other day of the month.
l According to statistical summary of social grants paid in South Africa as of January 31, just over 16 million people received social grant payments in South Africa. The majority of grant recipients are from KwaZulu-Natal – almost 4 million people.
Social grants refer to old age grant, war veteran’s grant, disability grant, grant in aid, child support grant, foster child grant and care dependency grant.
The majority of recipients receive child support grants (11 334 207 people), and again most of these recipients are from KZN (2 767 011 people).