THE BLACK SASH TRUST, REPRESENTED BY THE CENTRE FOR APPLIED LEGAL STUDIES, LAUNCHES CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPLICATION AGAINST SASSA TO PROTECT SOCIAL GRANTS


The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, on behalf of the Black Sash Trust, is today launching an application to the Constitutional Court. The application asks the Court to compel the Minister of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to take necessary measures to ensure that the social grants system and its beneficiaries are protected when the contract between SASSA and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) comes to an end on 31 March 2017.

It is the view of the Black Sash Trust that due to an urgency of SASSA’s own making, SASSA has no choice but to negotiate a further uncompetitive contract with CPS. CPS is currently the only entity capable of distributing social grants to over 17 million South Africans. The Black Sash Trust therefore is asking the Court to ensure that:

• the continued relationship with CPS is based on terms not harmful to, or exploitative of, the grant system and its beneficiaries; 
• the personal data of beneficiaries is owned by SASSA; and 
• such data is kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes targeting grant beneficiaries.

CALS and the Black Sash Trust are deeply concerned that the payment of grants to over 17 million beneficiaries will be compromised due to the failure of SASSA to ensure that it was ready to take over payment of the grant system by 1 April 2017, or award a lawful competitive tender timeously. The result is that it appears SASSA has no choice but to enter into a further uncompetitive contract with CPS, which may exacerbate the longstanding concern of Black Sash that unlawful deductions are made from grants. The emergency situation created demonstrates that the Minister of Social Development does not have adequate oversight over SASSA. Black Sash is therefore also requesting that the Constitutional Court re-establish its oversight in respect of the process of social grant payments and provide milestones as well as timelines.

We can only hope to avoid more harm by ensuring that the contract going forward is not negotiated on terms only favourable to CPS and instead protects the constitutional rights of the people it is meant to benefit.

-- 28 February 2017


For further enquiries, please contact:

The Black Sash Trust

Elroy Paulus
Black Sash Advocacy Manager 
082 748 5621 / 021 686 7168 
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Evashnee Naidoo 
Black Sash KZN Regional Manager 
084 430 6133 / 031 301 9215 
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The Centre for Applied Legal Studies

Bonita Meyersfeld, 
Director, Centre for Applied Legal Studies
011 717 8622 -- 076 755 0257 
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Nomonde Nyembe
Attorney, Centre for Applied Legal Studies 
076 100 6156  -- 011 717 8606 
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THE HANDS OFF OUR GRANTS (HOOG) CAMPAIGN

STOP UNAUTHORIZED, FRAUDULENT & UNLAWFUL DEBIT DEDUCTIONS PERMANENTLY! 

BLACK SASH MEDIA RELEASE | 13 OCTOBER 2016

THE BLACK SASH, ITS CIVIL SOCIETY PARTNERS AND GRANT BENEFICIARIES WILL BE HOLDING A MASS SILENT PROTEST ON 17 OCTOBER 2016

LOCATION: OPPOSITE GRINDROD MEWS, 106 MARGARET MNCADI AVENUE (FORMER VICTORIA EMBANKMENT)

In their court papers, the South African Reserve Bank states that Grindrod Bank is a small retail bank with a few branches, and expresses concern about the bank’s ability to service millions of social grant beneficiaries. It relies mainly on a call centre infrastructure. It has limited capacity to offer recourse (and refunds) emanating from unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful debit deductions from social grants. Beneficiaries thus continue to bear the high cost of travel and phone calls to sort out their compromised bank accounts. 

From the court papers, Grindrod argues that 90% of debit orders from social grant bank accounts are credit related, which appears to be in violation of Section 20 of the Social Assistance Act. The act is clear that a grant may not be “ceded, transferred or encumbered”. Grindrod Bank seems to prioritising the interest of creditors, above that of social grant beneficiaries, who they claim are ‘their clients’.

If Grindrod Bank were interested in servicing the interest of their social grant clients, they would heed to SASSA’s request to protect and ring fence the SASSA bank accounts immediately from unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions. Furthermore, Grindrod Bank should immediately suspend the electronic transfer of social grant money from the SASSA bank account to the Easy Pay Everywhere account, without the grant beneficiaries’ mandate to SASSA to effect this as per the new regulations.

WE WILL ALSO BE STANDING IN SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE PURSUING JUSTICE IN THE FOUR COURT CASES TO BE HEARD ON THE 17TH AND 18TH OCTOBER 2016 IN THE HIGH COURT IN PRETORIA.

The Department of Social Development published new regulations to the Social Assistance Act in May 2016, to stop the flood of unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions from the SASSA bank accounts and protect social grants from exploitation. Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and Grindrod Bank were instructed to remove the debit order facility and stop all deductions from the SASSA bank accounts.

However, in June 2016 Net1 (parent company of CPS), some of its subsidiaries (Moneyline, Manje Mobile and Smartlife) as well as a few other companies initiated four legal cases against SASSA, the Department of Social Development and others. These companies question government’s interpretation of the new regulations, particularly the protected ring fenced bank account. They furthermore ask the court to declare the new regulations unconstitutional.

Black Sash and six co- applicants have asked the High Court for the right to intervene in the four cases against SASSA and the Department of Social Development. It is asking the court to order that the Minister publish regulations to protect social grants from exploitation if: (a) DSD and SASSA’s interpretation is correct; and (b) that if the interpretation renders the new regulations unconstitutional - government should be given the opportunity to fix the new regulations, and if defective, to protect vulnerable beneficiaries from predatory and unscrupulous financial and other third party service providers.

The Black Sash and partners have supported many beneficiaries to secure recourse and refunds for deductions from the bank accounts into which their social grants are paid.

We salute Mr Bani, Mrs Hendricks, Mrs Saptoe, Mrs Nkosi, Mrs Nthite and Mrs Bezuidenhout for their brave stand as co-applicants in the upcoming court cases. Join us as we support our co-applicants and the many other social grant beneficiaries who are seeking justice.

For further information contact:

Elroy Paulus (Black Sash Advocacy Manager) – 082 748 5621 / 021 686 6952  

Jerome Bele (Black Sash KZN Paralegal Fieldworker) -  072 027 7675 / 031 301 9215

Esley Philander  (Black Sash Communications and Media) – 073 468 2909 / 021 686 6952

2 February 2017

The Black Sash is gravely concerned at the outcome of SASSA’s briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development on Wednesday 1 February 2017. More specifically, SASSA’s failure to meet the Constitutional Court Order of 2014 to create and implement the insourcing of social grant payments by 31 March 2017. This affects over 17 million people.

SASSA proposes that the unlawful contract with Cash Paymaster Services to pay social grants be extended for another year ending 31 March 2018. The CPS contract has resulted in countless and unresolved complaints of unauthorised, fraudulent, and unlawful deductions from grant beneficiaries’ SASSA bank accounts. SASSA submitted its timeframes to the ConCourt in November 2015.  More than 14 months has passed with no progress and now only weeks before the deadline SASSA will be approaching the ConCourt to extend an invalid contract in the hope of a favourable judgement.

The extension of the CPS contract by a year is premised on several assumptions and decisions to be made by third parties; that the ConCourt will rule in favour of an extension; that National Treasury will grant an extension of the contract in terms of its procurement policies; and that CPS will come on board on agreeable terms. With only 41 working days left before the contract expires, SASSA is not only ambitious but also reckless.

SASSA’s inaction has created this crisis. Yesterday SASSA acknowledged to Parliament that they ‘have failed’. The agency has placed itself in this position by not adhering to the timelines ordered by the ConCourt.  SASSA’s inaction has further placed grant beneficiaries’ wellbeing and survival at risk with continued unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions from their bank accounts with inadequate recourse, resulting in indebtedness. We are dismayed about the trading of grant beneficiaries’ confidential data, which was not addressed in SASSA’s proposals.

SASSA presented six options, each with their own benefits and risks for short to long term implementation. The medium to long terms plans are vague and without milestones or timeframes. How did SASSA come to the conclusion that the contract should be extended by one year? SASSA also did not disclose how much extra this will cost the tax payer. The Black Sash and our civil society partners have not been consulted on these options despite our repeated requests throughout 2016, and despite serving on the Ministerial Task Team to stop deductions.  Given its history, SASSA does not inspire our confidence that they are capable of delivering on their own milestones timeously within the year, let alone successfully insourcing social grants.  

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development has failed the South African public in its oversight role by not asking the pertinent questions raised above.  The Minister has also been significant by her absence at a hearing on this matter for a second time.  Ultimately, in the absence of oversight, who will hold SASSA accountable for the creation and delivery of an insourced grant payment system that will finally put an end to unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions?  We, as part of civil society, demand answers now. We will work with renewed determination to find these answers in the public interest.

For more information contact:

Elroy Paulus (Black Sash Advocacy Manager) – 082 748 5621 / 021 686 6952

Colleen Ryan (Black Sash Western Cape Manager) – 082 663 3364 / 021 686 6952

Esley Philander (Black Sash Communications and Media) – 073 468 2909 / 021 686 6952

24 November 2016 
 

The Black Sash, along with many other civil society organisations, hoped that Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) hearing on the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure on Wednesday 23 November 2016 would, amongst other very important issues, finally reveal evidence of SASSA’s implementation to in-source social grant payments.

Unfortunately, the response to the Committee from the Minister of Social Development, DSD and SASSA on this issue remains vague and evasive. Civil society organisations on the Ministerial Task Team, tasked to stop unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions from the SASSA branded bank account of grant beneficiaries, have for most of 2016 repeatedly made requests for details of SASSA’s progress in implementing their plans for in-sourcing and to date is yet to receive an appropriate response.

In April 2014, the Constitutional Court declared the current Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) SASSA contract for the payment of social grants invalid. In November 2015, SASSA then submitted a plan to the ConCourt with fixed timeframes outlining its implementation plans for in-sourcing social grant payments. However, most of these timeframes have not been adhered to, placing SASSA and grant beneficiaries in a precarious position. There are persistent rumours that the current invalid CPS contract could be extended beyond its expiry date of 31 March 2017. If these rumours are true, the ConCourt needs to provide guidance on how an invalid contract can be extended.

The danger of extending this contract is clear from the countless complaints we receive concerning unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions from the SASSA branded bank accounts of social grant beneficiaries. Many social grant beneficiaries who have laid complaints about these deductions are still struggling to have these deductions stopped, let alone receive full refunds.

All parties need to answer to the more than 17 million social grant beneficiaries whose very survival depends on the effective payment of grants monthly. SASSA owes grant beneficiaries an answer of who will pay them from 1 April 2017 and whether their SASSA branded bank accounts will be protected from unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions. There cannot be any further delay in holding SASSA to account for what could potentially become democratic South Africa’s biggest national crisis.

For more information contact:

  • Elroy Paulus (Black Sash Advocacy Manager) – 082 748 5621 / 021 686 6952
  • Esley Philander (Black Sash Communications and Media) – 073 468 2909 / 021 686 6952
../ends

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Media Statement

Director-General of Social Development, Mr Coceko Pakade,
Special Advisor, Mr Zane Dangor,
Members of the Ministerial Task Team,
Senior Managers of Social Development and SASSA,
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Good Morning.

When we designed the new payment system for social grants, our intention was to ensure that the poor and vulnerable in our society access their constitutional entitlements with dignity.

The new payment system sought to facilitate financial inclusion so that social grant recipients had access to bank accounts that would allow them to access their funds safely within the framework of the financial infrastructure that all of us enjoy.

It was also our intention that through banking the poor, we would reduce their vulnerability from the greed of money lenders or omashonisa who charged exorbitant interest rates. The new system was also geared towards closing the leakages associated with the old cash-based payment system and rooting out fraud and corruption.

While we have made significant gains in all of these areas, it became clear that the entrance of the SASSA payment card into the open loop banking system provided for a new frontier of exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society.

In my Budget Vote speech to Parliament in July this year, I indicated that I had received many complaints from beneficiaries about deductions that they had not authorised. These include loan repayments, prescribed debt, multiple funeral schemes, advance electricity and airtime, often without their knowledge or consent. Our investigation found cases of multiple deductions involving Old Age Grant. In one case, a beneficiary's account was debited for "airtime" by different network companies.

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate that Government does not provide any loans or extend credit to grant beneficiaries through the SASSA card. Also, Government does not endorse or support any financial services products such as short and long term insurance, funeral schemes or cellphone airtime.

Ladies and gentlemen, this growing national phenomenon of unlawful and immoral debit deductions is unacceptable in the sense that while some of these deductions may be technically legal, they remain immoral as they serve to rob the poor from the resources that we as South Africans provide for them, to meet their basic needs. Worse still, the money lenders do not even carry out appropriate risk and affordability checks as required by law. This exacerbates their vulnerability and in turn drives borrowers into a vicious cycle of never-ending debts.

Based on the growing number of complaints from social grant recipients made directly to me and those submitted to NGOs, I appointed a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) in February 2014. The Team is made up of representatives of Black Sash, the Association for Community Advice Offices in South Africa (ACAOSA), other civil society partners, DSD and SASSA. It was mandated to explore the nature of the deductions, provide recommendations to stop them, and ways to ensure that grant recipients had access to appropriate recourse.

I must at this point also indicate that I recently received an enquiry from the Public Protector on this matter.

On August 27 2014 the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) submitted a report to me with their findings and recommendations.
The following issues emerge from the report: Since 2012 when the contract to pay social grants, was awarded to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a wholly owned NET 1 subsidiary, the rate of debit deductions from grant beneficiaries appeared to increase significantly. These deductions were made from SASSA-branded Grindrod bank accounts into which the social grants are paid.

The Team found evidence of other financial institutions that may be linked to Net 1 holdings which is a holding company of CPS that offer financial products including micro-loans to grant beneficiaries.

The deductions associated with these products are then deducted via EFT payment system within the national payment system.

These practices are in contravention of the Social Assistance Act, Regulations of the Social Assistance Act and the SASSA Act.

The legislation allows for the social grants not be burdened or ceded and allows for one deduction not exceeding 10 percent for funeral insurance only. Furthermore, the contract compels CPS to protect the confidential information of grant beneficiaries, including biometric data gathered during re-registration in 2012.

It appears that loan repayments are pre-loaded before the social grant amount is transferred into the bank account of the beneficiary. Also, access to grant beneficiaries' confidential data - including identity numbers, bank account and contact details, biometric data, appear to fuel the marketing and sale of financial products including loans, the Umoya Manje products of advance airtime and electricity coupons.

What is more alarming is that civil society brought to the attention of the MTT that even debit deductions were made for the purchasing of water, which is a free basic service. Emerging evidence from the case studies presented during the MTT working sessions revealed that "Big Sharks in suits are now in the tank" with almost unrestricted access to funds in the bank accounts of grant beneficiaries.

They loan money to the poor specifically those with debt problems and those who have never applied for loan before. This is in opposition to one of the intended outcomes of the new payment system which was to protect social grant recipients from the predatory practises of loan sharks and other illegal acts of lending money.

Many social grant beneficiaries have struggled, with very little success to secure recourse. Disputes lodged with the bank and the service provider take months to resolve. Debit deductions for loans are in most instances disputed by CPS officials. They often claim that loans were granted using biometric data. Also, promises to refund deducted amounts are often not kept and many beneficiaries are kept waiting for their money.

The refunds exclude interest or service fees and the additional bank charges. Seeking recourse appears particularly challenging and expensive for those living in rural areas. Besides having to fork out additional transport fees to get to their nearest service point to lodge a complaint, there are airtime costs associated with calling what is supposed to be a Toll Free number.

Many grant recipients resort to seeking the help of their local advice office or community based organisation or just give up. All social grants are paid into banks accounts. Ten million bank accounts service 16 million beneficiaries, these accounts are at risk as 'ambush' marketing and fraudulent sales is on the increase.

Currently, these accounts appear to have little security, fraud or risk protection against these acts of illegal money lending practices. It is of great concern to me that these deductions are eroding the gains made by our democratic government over the past 20 years in term of the progressive realisation of social security and its impact on reducing poverty and inequality. The impact of the deductions has seriously compromised the dignity of grant beneficiaries. It continues to fuel indebtedness which reduces the quality of life of the poor.

The social assistance grants provide poor households with the means to meet their basic needs, especially food and we cannot allow these solidarity funds to be eroded to enrich a few unscrupulous business people. We need to restore the confidence in the social grant payment system.

As the responsible Minister, I accept all the recommendations made by the MTT, some of which are detailed below. The Ministry of Social Development, the affected government departments and civil society will work together to realise the following:

• design and implementation of a SASSA-owned and controlled recourse system in place to ensure that unlawful and immoral debit deductions are stopped and refunded with interest and bank changes, and where necessary backdated to 2012.
• SASSA and DSD will ensure that CPS, which according to the Constitutional Court judgment is performing a state function through the payment of social grants, complies with all the relevant legislation and regulations. This will include measures that will restrict third party creditor access to the social grant bank account
• the payment systems must be designed in such a manner that social grant beneficiaries' bank accounts are off limits to creditors.
• DSD and SASSA block and reverse with immediate effect any debit deductions for Umoya Manje services, loans and any other financial service providers other than legal 26A deductions.
• DSD, South African Reserve Bank, the Competition Commission and the National Treasury, need to scrutinise the imminent Grindrod Bank/ Bidvest sale and intervene decisively if necessary, to protect the 10 million social grant beneficiaries' bank accounts from further unlawful and immoral debit deductions and abuse of their confidential information.
• We will engage with the South African Reserve Bank to issue a Directive in terms of Section 12 of the National Payment System Act, in the public interest, to protect the SASSA bank accounts and confidential information of grant recipients.
• DSD will strengthen the Social Assistance Act Regulations, and related legislation to stop the use of social grants as collateral for loans and hold reckless lenders to account. DSD and SASSA as the mandate carriers for social security will work collaboratively with the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Credit Regulator, and other government departments and public entities, to enforce the changed legislation.
• We will also move speedily to establish the Inspectorate for Social Assistance as envisaged in the Social Assistance Act of 2004.
The Ministerial Task Team will continue to monitor and ensure the implementation of the recommendations by the respective parties and to report periodically on progress against targets. As Government we have both a legislative and moral duty to take action against those who feed ruthlessly on the vulnerability of the poor.

I thank you.

Friday 19 January 2017

The Constitutional Court mandated enquiry into the Minister of Social Developments’ personal liability is set to take place from Monday 22 to Friday 26 January 2018 starting 10:00 – 16:00 at the office of the Chief Justice situated at 377 14th Road, Noordwyk, Midrand. This is an open hearing and members of the public and the media are welcome.

A narrow inquiry into Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s role ahead of last year’s social grants crisis will begin at the Office of the Chief Justice next week. This inquiry follows a Constitutional Court order declaring the Minister be joined in her personal capacity to litigation brought by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies on behalf of the Black Sash Trust against SASSA, the Minister and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). The litigation sought to ensure the social grant payment system would be protected when the contract between SASSA and CPS ended in March 2017.

In its judgment of 17 March 2017, the Constitutional Court called upon the Minister to explain why she should not be joined to the case in her personal capacity and pay the costs of the application out of her own pocket. It further indicated that the Minister bears the primary responsibility to ensure that SASSA fulfils its functions.

After considering papers filed by the Minister, the former Chief Executive Officer of SASSA and the former Director General of the Department of Social Development, the Court ordered on 15 June 2017 that the Minister be joined to the matter in her personal capacity. Since there were a number of disputes in these papers, the Court further sought agreement from the parties to establish an inquiry to investigate any outstanding issues in terms of Section 38 of the Superior Courts Act.

On 3 August 2017, the Court appointed the Honourable Justice Bernard Ngoepe as the inquiry referee, mandating the enquiry to investigate:

  1. Whether the Minister sought the appointment of individuals to lead the “work streams” to report directly to her;
  2. Details of the appointments in terms of when the individuals were appointed, who they reported to and the details of the dates and contents of the report of the work streams to the Minister; and
  3. Why the Minister did not disclose this information to the Court.

This process is part of ongoing litigation around the uncertainty beneficiaries still face about whether there will be a plan in place for the uninterrupted payment of social grants come 1 April 2018. Black Sash and CALS remain concerned about the integrity of the grant payment system and the 17 million it assists. 



For enquiries, please contact:

 
Centre for Applied Legal Studies

Wandisa Phama, Attorney
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078 684 3140 / 011 717 8608

Akhona Mehlo, Attorney
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063 266 5963 / 011 717 8606

Black Sash Trust 

Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker
Black Sash National Advocacy Manager
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
072 252 0333 / 021 686 6952 

 

"In what the Black Sash describes as a “hollow victory for Net 1 and its subsidiaries”, acting Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen ruled in favour of Net1 on Tuesday 9 May 2017. The ruling allows for deductions from social grants to continue. Black Sash National Director, Lynette Maart, said she was deeply disappointed that the judgement will have ongoing negative consequences for grant recipients who, she argues, should be entitled to receive their grants without deductions including via debit orders. “It is disturbing that commercial interests seem to take precedence over protecting the Section 27 rights of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society to receive their grants in full” said Maart."

Read more: http://www.politicsweb.co.za/news-and-analysis/net1-high-court-victory-disappointing--black-sash

"The North Gauteng High Court ruled on Tuesday that South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries should not be restricted with how they choose to use their Grindrod bank accounts."

Read More: https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/sassa-ruling-devastating-black-sash-20170509

" The Black Sash Trust has expressed concern over the new social grant payment system that will see recipients getting their grants from banks‚ various merchants and spaza shops from April 1. According to the trust‚ the new Hybrid model‚ is confusing on how cash payments will be made to beneficiaries.“We remain concerned by the lack of clarity around the proposed ‘Hybrid’ payment model‚ in particular how cash payments will be made‚ as well as the transfer of beneficiaries to commercial bank accounts‚” the trust said in a statement."

Read More: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2018-01-29-new-social-grant-payment-system-more-confusing-black-sash-trust/

"Although the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has given the South African Post Office (Sapo) an offer to distribute social grants, a scathing report by a panel of experts and the Auditor-General has warned that incumbent Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) might still be the paymaster beyond April 2018."

Read More: https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/no-end-in-sight-to-cpssassa-contract-expert-panel-warns/

"There is no need for a "Plan B" for the payment of social grants next year because the government's new hybrid system will deliver as promised‚ Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe has assured lawmakers.MPs on Tuesday welcomed the progress in the social grants payment crisis and the involvement of the Post Office‚ but grilled the inter-ministerial committee (IMC)‚ chaired by Radebe‚ on cost effectiveness as well as contingency plans."

Read More: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2017-11-21-no-plan-b-in-social-grants-payments/

The Black Sash and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) are encouraged by the joint initiative of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and the Portfolio Committee on Social Development to keep the talks active between the Minister of Social Development, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the South African Post Office (SAPO).

It is imperative that the legislature and the executive work together to find a solution for the national payments of social grants to over 17 million beneficiaries when the Constitutional Court's decision extending the suspension of invalidity on the contract between SASSA and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) ends in March 2018. Social security is a human right and the distribution of social grants should never again be solely reliant on those motivated purely by profit. Through the course of our community monitoring work, we have witnessed the devastating impact and hardship this scenario has on the lives of social grant beneficiaries across the country.

We, therefore, urge all stakeholders to approach these deliberations in good faith and with a greater sense of urgency to avoid another national catastrophe.


For interviews please contact:

From the Black Sash Trust:

Evashnee Naidu
Black Sash KZN Regional Manager
084 430 6133 / 031 301 9215

Lynette Maart (available after 13h00)
Black Sash National Director
083 628 3425 / 021 686 6952

From the Centre for Applied Legal Studies:

Nomonde Nyembe
Attorney at CALS
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076 100 6156 / 011 717 8606

Khuraisha Patel
Candidate Attorney at CALS
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071 944 9990 / 011 717 8627

For media related enquiries please contact:

Esley Philander
Black Sash Communications and Media
073 468 2909 / 021 686 6952 

"The services of Thokozani Magwaza as CEO of the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) have been terminated after less than a year in the position. A statement from the Department of Social Development yesterday announced Magwaza's resignation and says a "mutual agreement" was reached between minister Bathabile Dlamini and the SASSA CEO to terminate his contract."

Read more: http://www.itweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=163430%3AOutspoken-CEO-leaves-SASSA&catid=160

Hands Off Our Grants

The Black Sash led Hands Off Our Grants (HOOG) Campaign calls for:

• SASSA to take over the payment of social grants ( insource ) by 1 April 2017; 
• The creation of a special and protected SASSA bank account; 
• Improved implementation of SASSA’s recourse system; 
• Refund disputed deductions with bank charges and interest backdated to 2012; & 
• The protection of personal and private information of all in the social grant system.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Ma Grace, a pensioner from Makwassie in the North West province, experienced airtime deductions from her SASSA account despite her not owning a cell phone. In February 2014, Minister Dlamini ordered SASSA to refund Ma Grace for these monthly airtime deductions. 

Mr Bani, a pensioner from Nyanga near Cape Town, received a partial refund for unauthorised & unlawful loans deductions from INFAJFIN in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape after months of seeking recourse.

But there are still scores of beneficiaries who are struggling to register their recourse complaint, let alone enjoy the benefit of a refund!

In May 2016, in a decisive move, the Minister of Social Development issued new regulations to stop the tide of unauthorised and unlawful debit and other deductions from the SASSA bank account. But in June 2016, Net1, a few of its subsidiaries and other commercial companies took DSD and SASSA to court in four legal cases.

The Black Sash and six co-applicants asked the court to order that the Minister publish regulations to protect social grants from exploitation if: (a) DSD and SASSA’s interpretation is correct; and (b) that the interpretation renders the new regulations unconstitutional. Government should be given the opportunity to fix the new regulations, if defective, to protect vulnerable beneficiaries from predatory and unscrupulous financial and other third party service providers.

Finally, we note the Constitutional Court order in April 2012 that SASSA must lodge a report within 14 days, of not awarding a new tender, “on whether and when it will be ready to assume the duty to pay the grants itself” (in-source). In November 2015, SASSA submitted a plan to ConCourt with clear deliverables & timeframes for taking over payment of grants by the end of the CPS/SASSA contract in March 2017. We are closely monitoring SASSA’s progress in this regard.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION

'“Subject to cost effectiveness” the South African Post Office will be providing four essential services needed to pay social grants on 1 April 2018. This was the assurance given by Jeff Radebe, chairperson of the Interministerial Committee (IMC) on Comprehensive Social Security, which has also been tasked with overseeing the phasing out of the current service provider – Cash Paymaster Services.'

Read more: https://www.groundup.org.za/article/post-office-grant-payment-deal-be-finalised-friday/

Thursday 21 February 2018

The Black Sash is encouraged by President Ramaphosa’s maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA), particularly the acknowledgement that social grants remain a vital lifeline for 17 million South African living in poverty. We note the finalisation of a permanent public sector-lead hybrid model and look forward to more details. We also pleased that urgent decisive steps will be taken to comply with all the directions of the Constitutional Court and that action will be taken to ensure that no person in government is undermining implementation deadlines set by the court.

In March 2017, the Constitutional Court extended the invalid Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and SASSA contract by one year ending 31 March 2018. This was to provide SASSA with the opportunity to put in place among others a new grant payment system and phase out CPS. On 6 February 2018, SASSA approached the Constitutional Court for a further six months extension of the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract, this time to continue “cash payments”. SASSA has put out a five year tender for cash payments to grant recipients particularly living in rural areas and those unable to access ATMs or other payment channels. Bidders are expected to submit proposals by 28 February 2018.

However, it would appear that SASSA’s extension of the CPS contract is not only to phase out the “cash payments” but also to ensure that there is a proper handover of the SASSA Bank Accounts held at Grindrod Bank to South African Post Office (SAPO) affecting 6.8 million beneficiaries. Our biggest concern is that SASSA will transfer social grants directly into the SASSA bank account held at Grindrod Bank from 1 April 2018, without moving these accounts into the SAPO Special Disbursement Account. According to its submission to the Constitutional Court SAPO is still awaiting sign off of the business rules on these Special Disbursement accounts. The printing of cards has been delayed to 16 March 2018 and distribution of the new SASSA card will commence from 1 April 2018.

SASSA in its presentation to the Portfolio Committee on 13 February 2018 states that beneficiaries, using the SASSA card will be moved to the SASSA/SAPO card if they do not want another bank account. A card swap plan has been developed, but dates and venues have yet to be finalised.

However, SASSA has put out a communication to grant beneficiaries encouraging them to open a commercial or SAPO bank account. The current communication strategy is creating great confusion amongst social grant beneficiaries about their choices. SASSA is currently paying R16.44 per grant beneficiary to CPS/Grindrod bank for the SASSA bank account. SASSA and National Treasury are still negotiating a low-cost banking product(s) with commercial banks and have not informed beneficiaries about the cost implications they will be liable for. Beneficiaries have also not been told that they can do a card swap to the SASSA/SAPO card to be rolled out from 1 April 2018. SASSA should explain the permanent public sector-led hybrid model in its entirety.

Furthermore, we are deeply concern that unscrupulous money lenders are completing the SASSA ‘Request for methods of payment” forms on behalf of grant beneficiaries in favour of the EPE bank account held collectively by Grindrod Bank and Moneyline. This practice has to stop immediately.


 
For media queries please contact:

Angie Richardson 
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For media comment and interviews please contact

Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker
Black Sash National Advocacy Manager
072 252 0333

OR 

Evashnee Naidu 
Black Sash Regional Manager
08 443 06133

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Read more: https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/financial-services/2017-04-03-recipients-safer-after-net1-tweaks-contract/

"Civil rights group the Black Sash says it’s deeply concerned by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s recent conduct, adding that there are many questions that need to be answered. The Black Sash, joined by other organisations, brought the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) case to the Constitutional Court and says it wants to know what progress has been made about the department and the social security agency arranging a new service provider to pay grants."

Read More: http://ewn.co.za/2017/05/05/black-sash-concerned-by-minister-dlamini-s-recent-conduct

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Read more: https://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/sas-grant-beneficiaries-in-spiral-of-debt-9828691?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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Read More: https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/sapo-grants-deal-with-sassa-is-not-yet-official-12082407