THE Constitutional Court has been asked to send to jail Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) employees who block Post Office officials - in one instance threatening them with a gun - from migrating social grants beneficiaries to the new payment system.
The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) wants incidents of CPS and its affiliates disrupting, interfering or refusing access to grants paypoints at Post Offices and the agency’s officials declared in contempt of court.
According to papers filed at the apex court, Sassa, CPS and the Post Office are under a constitutional obligation to ensure that social grants are paid to over 17 million beneficiaries and must therefore co-operate in the migration process without any disruption by any official and/or agents of CPS and its affiliated parties or entities.
Sassa also wants the notice threatening jail time for anyone interfering with the migration process to be displayed at all social grants paypoints across the country.
The Post Office took over part of the social grants function ahead of the complete phasing out of CPS at the end of September.
In his founding affidavit, acting Sassa chief executive Abraham Mahlangu said he has received disturbing reports and information that CPS officials or agents refuse or restrained Post Office and Sassa employees from accessing paypoints and performing their normal duties to expedite the migration of social grants beneficiaries from CPS to the Post Office.
”Sassa has reason to fear that if appropriate steps are not taken, the supervisory status of the honourable court (Concourt) in ensuring Sassa and the Minister (of Social Development Susan Shabangu) comply with their obligations and undertakings to meet their deadline of migrating social grants beneficiaries from CPS to the Post Office will be undermined,” reads Mahlangu’s affidavit.
He warned that this could further adversely affect the timeous implementation of the remedial action ordered by the court earlier this year when it extended CPS’s illegal contract to the end of September.
According to Mahlangu, negative media reports about the migration process could affect its integrity if not addressed through an appropriate remedial order. He cites several incidents between May and June when Post Office officials were either threatened with guns, chased away or CPS employees threatened to stop paying grants.
Last month in Mpumalanga, a Post Office employee witnessed CPS security guards threatening beneficiaries with guns telling them not to enter the card swop area where Post Office officials were seated.
In May, two senior Post Office officials visited a paypoint in the Free State to monitor the card swopping process but were thrown out by security guards and forced to stop taking photographs of the area.
Mahlangu said this occurred despite having given the security guards identification and notifying them about the purpose of their visit. The security guards told the Post Office officials that their boss had instructed them to remove all Post Office employees.
At another paypoint, also in the Free State, another Post Office official had her laptop battery stolen and was unable to work.
As a result, Mahlangu added, the official was unable to perform her duties and was told security guards had been instructed to chase all Post Office employees away.
He described CPS officials as aggressive and intimidating towards Post Office officials and beneficiaries. But Herman Kotze, CPS director and chief executive of Net1, its parent company, said the order sought by Sassa was unjustified and inappropriate.
"CPS has not willfully disobeyed or resisted the implementation of this court’s order,” Kotze said in his answering affidavit. He blamed Sassa for failing to comply with security measures that CPS observes at paypoints it manages.
”CPS has simply acted in compliance with the security protocol which it advised Sassa was required to maintain at the paypoints where large sums of public money are held,” said Kotze.
He said that between April and June at the 7457 Sassa paypoints serviced by CPS the company has paid out over R9.1billion through 1 730 fieldworkers and under the supervision of 2500 security personnel.