Sassa engages post office over closure of branches, says Lindiwe Zulu
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Cape Town - SOCIAL Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) would continue to engage the South African Post Office (Sapo) to ensure arrangements are made to pay grants where post offices were permanently closed.
Zulu revealed this when responding in writing to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Laetitia Arries.
Arries asked about contingency plans she has put in place to ensure that payment of social grants would not be affected by the closure of identified post offices.
In May, Sapo chief executive Nomkhitha Mona said they planned to close up to 80 more branches of the post office.
“Our targeted number of branches to close is 130.
“This was for a lot of reasons, including lack of profitability and the fact that there were too many within a short distance in terms of radius,” she said.
However, Mona said sometimes they had to respect the current contracts they have with landlords because if they stepped out of it immediately, they were prone to penalties.
“We are doing that in staggered form.
“The number is 80 to go.
“The target was 130.
“We have closed some of those,” she said.
Zulu said Sassa has engaged Mona to determine the impact of the closure of post offices.
“The confirmation was provided that the closures are being undertaken in terms of a strategy approved by the post office in 2016 as a way in which to reduce costs to the post office for outlets which are not commercially viable, will take place over time as the existing leases come to an end, and adequate consultation will take place prior to the closures,” she said.
“The commitment was also made that closures will only be considered where there is alternative infrastructure within a 5km radius for social grant beneficiaries to be able to access their social grants,” Zulu said.
The minister also said the total number of post office outlets closed between 2015 and this year was 120.
“Of these, only 16 were in rural areas, but all were branches where there was another post office outlet within the close vicinity.
“The remaining 104 branches were in urban and metro areas where there is no shortage of alternative national payment infrastructure which can be used by social grant beneficiaries.”
Zulu said in assessing the impact these closures will have on Sassa beneficiaries, it should be noted that only about 3% of all the social grant beneficiaries access their social grants through the post office.
“Social grant beneficiaries who receive their social grants through their Sassa/Sapo cards – a total of 7 612 640 out of 11 500 274 for June 2021 – are able to access their funds through multiple channels, namely bank ATMs, merchant point of sale devices, over the counter at post offices and at the remaining 1 621 cash pay points.”
She also said less than 500 000 social grant beneficiaries accessed their social grant over the counter at post offices during May 2021.
“Notwithstanding the above, Sassa will continue to engage with the Sapo to ensure that, where post office outlets are identified for permanent closure, there is alternative infrastructure available, which meets the norms and standards set for social grant payment, to minimise the negative impact on the beneficiaries,” Zulu added.