Sassa and Post Office 'ready to pay grants' - minister

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African Post Office (SAPO) are ready to start rolling out payments to social grant beneficiaries at the end of September, Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu said at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Friday. 

This includes cash payments, she said.

Also present at the briefing were Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele, SAPO CEO Mark Barnes and acting Sassa CEO Abraham Mahlangu. 

"To date, 5.5 million beneficiaries have been swapped from CPS (Cash Paymaster Services) to SAPO. We only have 200 000 more to go," Shabangu said.

The contract between Sassa and CPS expires at the end of September. This was after the Constitutional Court in March allowed a six-month extension of the invalid contract with CPS to allow SAPO to equip itself to issue cash payments.

'Systems are working'

On Thursday, the court ruled that Sassa and its former acting CEO Pearl Bhengu were liable for the costs of the application for the extension.

"Our partnership with the Post Office is yielding results," Shabangu said. "Our systems are working."

Despite SAPO having some "logistical challenges", Shabangu said she believed payments to beneficiaries would continue without incident upon the expiry of the CPS contract.

"Government will take full responsibility for the payment of grants to our beneficiaries," Shabangu said.

According to Cwele: "We are making real progress in a very short period of time."

"The challenges we had have largely been resolved," Cwele said.

Cwele added that these "challenges" were not caused by Sassa or SAPO, but rather by network-related challenges such as connecting databases.

A lot of groundwork had been done to ensure that operators were equipped to handle grant payments, Cwele said.

Both ministers had visited operators, especially in remote areas, to inspect progress.

"Even there, people were swapping cards," said Cwele.

'Difficult task'

The old Sassa Mastercard with an image of the South African flag is being replaced by a gold-coloured Visa card.

SAPO had started piloting cash payments at various cash paypoints in Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Free State and the Northern Cape and will continue to do so in other provinces, Cwele said.

"It is a difficult task, but it is being done."

Security, especially, was being prioritised, especially regarding cash payments, the minister said.

"After October, all our systems will be fully optimised. We will continue to pay grants to our recipients without disruptions."

Asked about Thursday's Constitutional Court judgment, Shabangu said: "We welcome the decision. As government, we will always respect court decisions."

Shabangu said progress made by Sassa and SAPO was such that Sassa would not seek a further extension of the CPS contract.

'We are complying with the ConCourt decision. We will meet our obligation [of swapping beneficiaries from CPS to SAPO] before the end of September," Shabangu said.

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