Hands Off Our Grants Campaign: call to action
In October 2015, more than 1200 people from a range of civil society organisations demanded that unauthorised, unlawful, fraudulent and immoral deductions from beneficiaries’ SASSA bank accounts be stopped.
It is October 2016 and we are here again!
New regulations, published in May 2016, were meant to stop the flood of unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent debit deductions from the SASSA bank accounts. Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and Grindrod Bank were instructed to remove the debit order facility from the SASSA bank account.
But in June 2016 Net1 (which owns CPS), some of its subsidiaries, including Moneyline and Manje Mobile Services, as well as a few other companies took government to court in four cases challenging primarily SASSA and the Department of Social Development’s interpretation of the new regulations and secondarily the new regulations itself. The applicants are asking the High Court to interpret the functionality of the SASSA bank account to include debit orders. They question the authority of the Minister of Social Development to regulate electronic debits within the banking domain.
They also asked that the new regulations be declared unconstitutional, if indeed the Department of Social Development (DSD) and SASSA’s interpretation of the regulations is correct.
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.
For months we have gathered evidence and testimonies from affected persons about money deducted from the bankaccounts into which their social grants are paid, without their approval or informed consent. Media reports also show that cases of suspicious deductions continue and are on the increase. The system that SASSA has put in place to solve deduction disputes is not working well, leaving many beneficiaries unable to resolve queries and/or claim back their money.
THIS MUST STOP!
This Campaign asserts the Constitutional right to social security.
Finally, we note the Constitutional Court order in April 2012 that SASSA must lodge a report within fourteen days of not awarding a new tender, “on whether and when it will be ready to assume the duty to pay the grants itself” (insource).
In November 2015, SASSA submitted a plan to ConCourt with clear deliverables and 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.
The Black Sash led Hands Off Our Grants (HOOG) Campaign calls for:
• SASSA to take over the payment of social grants (in-source) 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.
Black Sash, the Association for Community Advice Offices of South Africa (ACAOSA), supporting civil society organisations along with SASSA beneficiaries are asking for your support as follows:
• Register your disputed debit deductions with your local SASSA office immediately or call SASSA’s Toll Free Number on 0800 60 10 11. If necessary, escalate your dispute to SASSA regional, provincial and national offices.
• Mass action to be held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban on 17 – 18 October 2016.
• Sign up for the Amandla.mobi ‘Hands Off Our Grants’ petition.
Visit https://awethu.amandla.mobi/petitions/hands-off-our-grants. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can sign up for the petition by sending the word ‘grants’ in a SMS, Please Call me or Whatsapp to 074 357 6937.
We refuse to remain silent about the hardship and struggles of poor and vulnerable people affected by these unauthorised and often fraudulent deductions. As a result beneficiaries experience food shortages and are unable to take their medicines. Many, particularly in rural communities, struggle to find recourse, spending extra money on transport and airtime, often with little success.
For more information – please email:
We challenge the unlawful, fraudulent and unethical business practices of the current SASSA outsourced contract; and demand that the State fulfil its Constitutional obligations.
We invite you to endorse and support this Campaign on the 17-18th October 2016 Court hearings in the Pretoria High Court. This outcome may define the powers of the Minister of Social Development to prohibit disputed deductions from SASSA Grants Beneficiaries!