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South Africa's Social Grants System Beset by Glitches Amid Mounting Concerns

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

South Africa's social grant system finds itself in hot water after experiencing several system failures which have left the 26-million beneficiaries without their much-needed funds. The system, accounting for roughly 17% of the country's tax revenue, while not always flawlessly operational, has been instrumental in the lives of numerous South Africans, providing crucial sustenance.

The government allocates over R22bn every month in social grants. Over 13 million children receive R500 every month, while around 4 million older people and an additional 1 million people with disabilities are granted R2,080 per month. A recent introduction to the system saw the provision of a R350 monthly social relief of distress grant to 8.5 million individuals.

However, an unsettling glitch last week highlighted potential systematic problems. This is reportedly the fourth failure of the system since Postbank took over the grant payments in October last year. The cause of the most recent malfunction remains unclear, with official sources simply citing 'a glitch' as the culprit.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) revealed that Sassa and Postbank cardholders, who constitute nearly half the beneficiaries, were severely impacted by this malfunction. The extent of the impact remains unknown.

Last Monday, pensioners reported their inability to access the grants. Although Postbank claimed the issue was resolved by Wednesday, withdrawals through retailers were still problematic. This led beneficiaries to desperately run from one ATM to another, resulting in numerous reversal instructions at banks, and ultimately further delaying payments.

Concerns have been rightfully raised about the SA Post Office’s capacity and infrastructure to effectively pay grants, as Black Sash previously expressed scepticism about their capabilities.

South Africa's social grant system acts as a lifeline for millions, preventing severe hunger and societal unrest. As such, the efficient functioning of this system should be a top priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa's government.

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