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Pretoria - The South African Post Office (Sapo) on Thursday assured social grant beneficiaries that it was ready to start taking over the payment of grants from April 1.

These beneficiaries will be paid without the help of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), the company the SA Social Security Agency contracted to pay grants.  

"The Post Office is ready to play its role in the payment of social grants," said Sapo chief executive Mark Barnes.

Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu said 5.7 million beneficiaries will be paid directly from April 1.

Read: #Sassa to pay 5.7 million social grants directly from April 1

Social grant beneficiaries can currently choose between three methods of payment - cash payment, merchant or supermarkets, and through personal bank accounts. 

"Sassa also intends depositing money into the cards of those beneficiaries who receive their social grants in cash from pay points. The only support that will be required for the approximately 2.8 million beneficiaries is the distribution of cash at the pay points," Bhengu said.

The extension of the CPS contract to March 31, 2018 was granted by the Constitutional Court last year. The court had previously declared the contract invalid ordering Sassa to put in place a new contract to pay over 17 million grants. 

Sassa has asked for a further extension of this contract for an extra six months because Sapo would not be unable to take over cash payment services of social grants at the moment to about 2.5 million people – a service currently provided by CPS. 

Bhengu said if the Constitutional Court does not allow for a further extension of the contract with CPS, the agency had a contingency plan in place involving the SA Reserve Bank (SARB). 

A ruling in this regard from the Constitutional court is pending.

Sassa said if the court rules in its favour it would use the next six months to transition from CPS to Sapo. 

"Sassa is in the process of appointing a cash payments service provider who will distribute grants using the new Sassa-Sapo card at all pay point across the country," Bhengu said.

Beneficiaries using the old Sassa card may continue to do so until September 30.

"We will soon introduce the new Sassa cards via the Post Office and beneficiaries will be informed about the process to be followed," Barnes said.

Barnes said Sapo would continue to meet with Sassa weekly to ensure a smooth transition. 

African News Agency/ANA