The suspension of cash payments to social grant beneficiaries across the country will be devastating should the unrest continue, says General Moyo of the #PayTheGrants campaign and member of the Fight Inequality Alliance.
“Not only for those who were receiving or relying on the social relief of distress grant, but many pensioners and disabled people, many that are not able to access their money otherwise,” he said.
On Monday 12 July, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) announced that cash-in-transit (CIT) services to paypoints have been suspended indefinitely owing to the unrest mostly concentrated in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Sassa said this was to ensure the safety of beneficiaries and those in the CIT industry, especially those in “high-risk areas”.
Beneficiaries with Sassa cards are still able to access their social grants through ATMs, and at merchants and post offices, said Western Cape Sassa spokesperson Shivani Wahab. “The closure of the cash pay points does not equate to clients being denied access to their social grants,” said Wahab. She also said that beneficiaries in the Western Cape have already been paid for the July cycle.
The KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Sassa spokespeople referred GroundUp to the national office. In response to several questions, national spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko said that Sassa operations will resume once the situation has calmed down and “new payment dates will be communicated”. It is still unclear how payments to beneficiaries will be made next month as in many areas in the two provinces all the stores and ATMs have been destroyed.
However, Moyo said that the signs of unrest were clear before it started and was a ticking time bomb. The #PayTheGrants campaign has been advocating for the introduction of a basic income grant after the R350 Covid-19 SRD grant was terminated in April.
Another #PayTheGrants member, July Eccles, said, “The most vulnerable members of society will suffer. The burden that the pandemic placed squarely on the shoulders of the poor and working class, the chronic levels of youth unemployment, and overall joblessness being at its highest ever, have not been responded to with any sense of urgency by the government.”
In a statement on Wednesday, the C19 People’s Coalition also called on the government that among other issues to resolve the unrest, it should “reinstate the Covid-19 SRD grant for the unemployed and caregivers, at an increased amount of R585. Also ensure that Sassa offices are opened and protected and move rapidly to an expanded basic income guarantee at minimum R1 268.”
This article was first published in GroundUp.