700 000 social relief grants uncollected

By Mayibongwe Maqhina for IOL

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has revealed that more than 700 000 beneficiaries have not collected their R350 social relief of distress grants from the South African Post Office (SAPO).

EFF MP Rosina Ntshetsana Komane wrote to Zulu asking about the number of beneficiaries who were approved to receive the grant and were yet to claim their money.

Komane also asked about the measures her department has put in place to ensure that all those entitled to the grant accessed it.

The grant was introduced as a temporary relief measure for those who lost economic opportunities and were adversely affected after the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.

In February, President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the grant until March 2023 and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana allocated R44 billion for the 12-month extension while a long-term social assistance approach was considered.

In her written reply, Zulu said a total of 771 089 had not collected their R350 grant since it was first introduced.

“According to the reconciliation received from the SA Post Office (SAPO), a total of 328 477 beneficiaries have yet to collect their grant from the first cycle which ended 30 April 30 2021 and 442 602 from the second cycle which covers the period from August 2021 to March 2022,” she said.

Zulu also said approval was recently provided to SAPO, in line with the directions published on February 10, for beneficiaries from the first cycle to be paid their funds should they report to the Post Office.

The minister said beneficiaries could have the grants paid directly into their personal bank accounts and through the Post Office.

“Currently, of the 10 563 123 approved beneficiaries, 42% collect their grants through the post office while 58% receive the grant in their own personal bank accounts,” she said in reference to the 4.4 million beneficiaries paid via the Post Office.

Zulu also said beneficiaries could access their grants through the retailers such as Pick n Pay, Boxer, Checkers, Shoprite and Usave.

“Negotiations with the Spar group to also allow access to the relief grant are at an advanced stage and further announcements will be made shortly.”

Zulu said the South African Social Security Agency was also finalising the contracting with banks to allow for the payment to be made to mobile phones.

“This channel will be available for the extension of the grant from April 2022 to March 2023.”

Zulu said: “These channels have all contributed to the significant improvement in reducing the queues at Post Offices, and provide a range of options for approved beneficiaries to be able to access their grants conveniently.”

Meanwhile, a total of 51 Post Office branches were closed between 2020 and 2021 with Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal leading the pack with 21 and 16 respectively.

Responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Bridget Masango, Zulu said Sassa was no longer growing the customer base for the Post Office with new social grant beneficiaries in light of current challenges experienced by the entity.

“This decision was taken by Sassa in 2020 to afford the Post Office an opportunity to review their systems and strategies going forward,” she said.

Zulu also said since the contract with Cash Paymaster Services was terminated, Sassa ensured that the social grants were paid into the beneficiaries’ special disbursement accounts handled by SAPO and into beneficiaries’ private bank accounts on a monthly basis.

“Of the approximately 7 million accounts opened within the SAPO environment for social grant beneficiaries, only 10% actually utilise the post office branches or cash pay points to access their funds.

“The remaining beneficiaries already access their grants through the National Payment System at bank ATMs and merchant point of sale devices,” she said.


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