09/03/2018 04:26 GMT | Updated 09/03/2018 04:26 GMT

An 'Inconvenient' Chaos Might Await Social Grant Beneficiaries

Sassa needs CPS to help it distribute grants to 2.8-million cash beneficiaries, the agency says.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Women stand outside South Africa's Constitutional Court in Johannesburg , South Africa, March 17, 2017.

If the Constitutional Court denies Sassa's plea for an extension on the unlawful CPS contract for the distribution of social grants, everyone will receive their social grants, but the process will be "inconvenient".

Sassa appeared before the Constitutional Court on Tuesday in an effort to convince the court that it needed another six months with CPS as its social grant provider, so that the company could help it "phase-in, phase-out" the distribution of grants, News24 reported.

At a press conference on Thursday, Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu reportedly said that Sassa would pay grants directly into all beneficiary accounts on April 1. But there are 2.8-million beneficiaries, mostly in rural areas, who need to convert their grants into cash at pay points.

These pay points will not be operational, should CPS not be allowed to continue, so these beneficiaries will need PINs so that they can withdraw their money elsewhere. That will require an education campaign and transport for these beneficiaries, who are mostly the elderly and the disabled, Bhengu reportedly explained.

CPS called that scenario "chaos", although Bhengu reportedly said that was too strong a word, and said the situation would be "inconvenient".

On Thursday, South Africa Post Office (Sapo) CEO Mark Barnes reportedly said the post office was in the process of training its employees to assist with cash payouts at its counters, but it will not be able to cover all beneficiaries in need of cash, come April 1, when CPS' contract runs out.

According to the Mail & Guardian, Sassa and Sapo have successfully begun a pilot program where 5.7-million beneficiaries will receive the grants in their personal bank accounts at commercial banks, or through Postbank. It is only the 2.8-million rural beneficiaries that require CPS's help, Sassa reportedly said.

Barnes reportedly added that an increasing number of beneficiaries have already opened Postbank accounts between January and February 2018.

On Tuesday, a visibly irritated bench of justices reportedly voiced their displeasure at being approached, again, with an application by Sassa to extend the CPS contract, Daily Maverick reported. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng reportedly said the court was being "laughed at", and Justice Sisi Khampepe reportedly accused Sassa of blackmail.

Advocate Nazeer Cassim, acting for Sassa, told the court that there was no alternative to pay the 2.8 million cash beneficiaries, unless CPS was allowed to stay on.

In the future, the post office will take over cash payments from Sassa pay-points if there is a post office branch nearby the pay point that meets the minimum requirements.