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'I take full responsibility for social grant payment hiccups,' says minister Lindiwe Zulu

Minister calls for reforms of the grants payment system

31 March 2020 - 16:14 By S'thembile Cele
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has called for the reform of the social grant payment system to avoid access problems during the lockdown and once it has ended.
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has called for the reform of the social grant payment system to avoid access problems during the lockdown and once it has ended.
Image: Linda Mthombeni

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has called for the reform of the social grant payment system following hiccups that arose because of the regulations imposed during the Covid-19 crisis.

Addressing members of the media on day two of early grant payments on Tuesday – for the elderly and those living with disabilities – Zulu conceded that day one was fraught with problems of long queues and a lack of the practice of physical distancing.

The minister said R3.8bn of the total grant amount of R10.2bn was withdrawn by 5pm yesterday.

Zulu said a conversation had started around how to make the payment system more effective for the current period and beyond.

“What can we do in future to avoid these lines? Moving forward there is an opportunity to do better.

"Giving dignity is about ensuring our people can easily access social grants in general but also making it easier. At the moment there is stress and strain on the system.

"There are conversations with Sapo (SA Post Office) and Sassa (SA Social Security Agency) because today it is corona, tomorrow it is something else,” Zulu said.

Following the challenges of day one, when it became clear the system was overwhelmed and inflexible, the minister said a teleconference took place between stakeholders, including the “payment industry”, which is made up of retailers and commercial banks.

Among the interventions discussed which needed to be implemented today include: the replenishing of ATMs, making available more volunteers and departmental staff, deployment of more law enforcers for crowd management and “dignity measures” from retailers (making chairs available and implementing physical distancing).

A major issue which surfaced on day one was that of money running out. The minster conceded there was a miscalculation on the part of the department.

“In our calculation – we take full responsibility for this – we miscalculated the amount of money which ended up being withdrawn. It was in Mpumalanga where we were told there was no money available. We were assured money would be available today.”

Noting the tragic passing of at least two elderly people who were set to collect their grant payments yesterday, the minister clarified the circumstances in which the deaths took place.

She said the department had been in touch with the families, who said the deaths had nothing to do with negligence on the part of the department.

Furthermore, the department would be providing social relief to the families, and a private company had offered to help with funeral costs up to R50,000.

Regulations around public transport were relaxed this week to allow grant beneficiaries to get to grant collection points.


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