For some time now, beneficiaries had to endure some unfortunate transactions in the form of deductions on their social grants - others authorised, and in some cases, unauthorised deductions, in the form of airtime, electricity units and excessive funeral premiums. In terms of regulation 26A of the Social Assistance Act, the only deductions permitted are for funeral cover that should not even surpass 10% of the value of the grant.
Looking back, one can certainly say, this is an era, that as the Agency, we should never again find ourselves entangled in. As the Agency, we, of course, went all out to curb bad practices by unscrupulous businesses who took advantage of beneficiaries of social grants by amongst other things introducing a dispute resolution mechanism that sought to protect recipients. Furthermore, the matter was even ventilated in the courts.
Regardless of our efforts the maladies in some cases continued due to erudite tactics used by these unprincipled businesses and crooks. Has anyone bothered to look at the practices of these businesses? I would strongly argue that too much focus is on Sassa while the others who may be associated with reprehensible practices in one way or the other are allowed to go scot-free.
For instance, currently we are on a crusade to ensure that beneficiaries swop the old Sassa card for the new one. Consequent to issuing such messages, counter messages immediately emerge that notify people to continue using the same or other cards, going further to even use our logos, thus impinging on our copyright.
Recently, another short message emerged that directs beneficiaries to re-register for their grants, purporting that failure to do that will result in their grants being cancelled. This is completely untrue and smacks of buccaneering.
Why would people derive pleasure in confusing vulnerable members of society who rely on government for something that brings relief to their families? Sassa is even more determined to ensure that no amount of fake news and distraction derail it from providing a critical service to the needy and vulnerable as directed by the Constitution of the Republic.
In some cases, it has been discovered that beneficiaries would go and seek loans from certain institutions and loan sharks using their cards, and handing over their pins and identity documents, as some sort of collateral to secure the loans.
I do not think these loan sharks and businesses would be happy to let go of, what to them, is a “lucrative market”. They continuously send mixed messages deliberately to sow confusion and cause chaos in the grants system.
Sassa has remarkably turned the corner with the advent of the new Sassa card which has been available since May this year. All beneficiaries who will enrol on the new Sassa card will no longer experience any form of illegal deductions going off their grants. Furthermore, the new card, issued by the South African Post Office, guarantees beneficiaries a different experience when using it at the merchants.
Beneficiaries will have three free cash withdrawals at merchants who are working with Sassa. One free withdrawal at a post office outlet per month and free swipes (purchases) at merchants. The card swop process with the South African Post Office will run until the end of September 2018 and beneficiaries should respond to the call to get the new Sassa card.
Beneficiaries of social grants should also play their part. Be responsible and protect what belongs to them, they should refrain from engaging in transactions that will impact negatively on their social grants.
We have learnt many lessons from the relationship with the company we are cutting ties with, consequently allowing us to recalibrate and refocus. Working together with key stakeholders and beneficiaries, we are on a trajectory of winning the battle against those who are hell-bent on ruining the grants system.
* Letsatsi is the head of communication at Sassa.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.