After receiving her new Sassa-SA Post Office (Sapo) card, a pensioner went to draw her grant from a retailer, only to find a zero balance on both cards.
“Six people who were ahead of me in the queue were turned away. The cashier told me there was no money on the system and that I should come back and try again,” said the pensioner, who did not want to be named.
Using the number at the back of her Sassa card, the pensioner checked her balance electronically and her account still reflected zero.
“I spoke to a lady in the queue and she was upset because she needed the money to buy food,” she said.
Senior KwaZulu-Natal Sassa communications manager Vusumuzi Mahaye said an investigation would have to be launched to identify the cause of the problem.
“We are convinced that the money is in the account. It’s our suspicion that it’s not a payment issue but something beyond that,” he said.
Another pensioner said: “I went to draw my pension yesterday and it says ‘We cannot process your request due to a technical error.’ I went to the ATM three times and it’s coming up with the same result.”
In response, Mahaye said the problem was not a Sassa issue, but rather a bank issue.
Minority Front councillor Jonathan Annipen said that while the idea of Sapo paying out Sassa grants was “brilliant”, the infrastructure was still not ready to handle it.
“You have people collecting grants who are 60, 70, some of them 80 years old, and there’s no chairs for them to sit on, no proper ventilation, no water dispensers and nobody to guide the queues. It’s absolute mayhem,” he said.
Nobuhle Njapha, the regional Sapo spokesperson, said the post office was implementing a dignity plan to provide adequate seating and other facilities for Sassa beneficiaries on pay days.
“The plan will be fully implemented by the September pay day, and beneficiaries should have a very positive experience by then,” said Njapha.
Annipen challenged Sassa to conduct visits at locally contracted post offices to determine the types of systems they have in place, and not just look at the IT and technical aspects.
“For example, the Phoenix vicinity only has one unit, one individual dealing with maybe 300 patrons a day, on average.”
Njapha emphasised that some post office branches worked well beyond normal business hours to ensure that every beneficiary on site was paid.