Post Office branches in Eastern Cape and KZN run low on cash for Sassa grants
Anxious pensioners spent the night sleeping outside post offices in Mthatha and Ngqeleni in the hope of getting their pensions on Tuesday. However, they were told that there were issues with cash deliveries in some parts of the country, leading to delayed payouts.
Elderly people began arriving at post offices in Mthatha and Ngqeleni in the Eastern Cape late on Monday night, with some arriving in the early hours of Tuesday morning. They got what little sleep they could under the circumstances.
Then, on Tuesday morning, they were told that the pension payments would be delayed.
The pensioners said the government needed to bring back mobile payment units as they were risking their lives by sleeping outside post offices.
Under a previous South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) system, vehicles with cash withdrawal facilities travelled to rural areas to allow recipients easy access to their grants. Postbank has since been handling distribution.
Those who had slept outside post offices said they were anxious about getting their money as they had hungry children at home.
Their frustration quickly turned to anger when post office staff explained that they were awaiting the delivery of cash.
Daily Maverick tried to get clarity from the managers of the Mthatha and Ngqeleni post offices, but was told that they were in a meeting to sort out the problem.
Both the Department of Social Development and Sassa declined to answer questions, saying it was for Postbank to respond.
Postbank spokesperson Dr Bongani Diako said that while their system was stable and working, there were sporadic problems with the delivery of cash to post offices.
He said beneficiaries could access their money through other channels such as ATMs and retailers.
“They do not necessarily have to go on the first day of payment to get their money. These three channels are always available and have been accessible since 2018. The payment of grants in October has improved.
“The payment system performance has been stable and we have experienced successful transactions across ATMs, retailers and post office branches across the country.
“There were some post office branches which experienced delays in the delivery of cash, and throughout the day cash was delivered to most of those that have been affected.
“Beneficiaries in the areas that had cash delivery delays were all paid, as they were redirected to the other available payment points,” he added.
‘This is our money’
Thembaka Mkwa, one of the elderly women queuing at Ngqeleni, said she had been outside the post office since 2am on Tuesday.
“The majority of us are sleeping here and some come here after midnight to collect our money, but the unfortunate part is that they are not going to finish paying us today and some of us are going to sleep here again tonight,” she said.
Payouts at the Ngqeleni post office began only after 11am.
“Government must revive the old system of payment where we could get our money in our villages,” she said.
“Coming here every month is a risk for us and also we are old now. It is dangerous to do what we do. But we are desperate for this money because there is no food in our homes.”
She said she used her pension to take care of herself and six other people.
Zigcinile Doni (64) who was sleeping outside the Mthatha post office, described the delays as “abusive”.
“Every month we experience these delays. We never get our money on time. At 1am we were already here. This is sad because sometimes we are being turned away because there is no money. Another problem is the network… sometimes we return home without money because there is no network in this post office,” Doni added.
Themba Nkomo said they are exposed to criminals when they come to collect their pensions.
“There are always delays here. We don’t get our money on time. Imagine, we are risking our lives coming here at midnight and we are exposed to criminals.”
It was not only the pensioners who were anxious to get their money.
Recipients of the Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) grant could also not initially access their funds.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were told there was no cash at the post office on Monday, and they were then told to return the following day. On Tuesday, they were told there was not enough money to pay out their full R10,300 grant.
They were also told to come back at another time as it was pension payout day.
“But what surprised us is that even those pensioners who have been waiting with us here could also not be paid because of delays. I don’t know what is happening here,” she added.
“This is our money. We are demanding to see the manager but we are being told that they are in a meeting.
“We were here to withdraw our R10,300 SEF money, but they are saying they don’t have enough cash. And now they are coming up with a new story, saying they are only going to give us half because there is not enough,” she said.
KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town
In KwaZulu-Natal, Postbank released a statement urging beneficiaries of Sassa grants to collect their money at ATMs and retailers such as Pick n Pay or Spar from Tuesday, rather than using post office branches.
“This is due to many post office branches in KwaZulu-Natal having reported that they anticipate having insufficient cash in store as a result of delivery delays,” it stated.
Beneficiaries were reminded that Sassa gold cards could be used to make cash withdrawals from any ATM, as well as at the till in retail stores.
According to Postbank, post office branches in the province would still be able to assist beneficiaries of social grants with non-cash Sassa services, such as PIN resets.
Systems were running smoothly when Daily Maverick visited the Vlaeberg and Kenilworth post offices in Cape Town.
Following last month’s debacle that saw thousands of Sassa beneficiaries go unpaid, it was business as usual at many of the post office branches in Gauteng on Tuesday.
Daily Maverick visited branches in Midrand, Randburg and Braamfontein. While there were long lines of pensioners waiting to collect their grants, there were no issues relating to payouts.
An elderly beneficiary said that while she had been waiting since the early morning, the line was slowly moving and she didn’t expect any problems.
Beneficiaries at the Randburg post office said they had received their money for this month, as well as what they were owed from the previous month.
However, there are still isolated incidents related to the payment of grant money in the province. Leandra Salvarto, who is based in Benoni, said her mother-in-law had not received her grant for the second month running.
“Normally we just go to the bank with the Sassa card and withdraw, but we went last month to change from the Sassa card to the bank, and we were told that only from November would the payment go to the bank,” she said.
Salvarto’s mother-in-law eventually received her September grant, two days late, with a deficit — and no explanation why.
“I don’t find it fair to the elderly. They depend on that money to assist with medication and all sorts of things. We help out where we can, but I feel for those who haven’t received their money,” she said. DM