The first batch of new South African Social Security Agency [Sassa] grant-payment cards were distributed in Worcester on Tuesday, as well as to small groups of beneficiaries in eight other locations around the country.
Sassa says this is the pilot phase to get social-grant beneficiaries to swop their existing Cash Paymaster Services [CPS] or Net1 "green" cards to the new South African Post Office–Sassa Postbank account cards.
All new beneficiaries will be issued with the Postbank card. Existing grant recipients can swap their current cards by visiting their nearest Sassa or post office from May 2 until the end of September.
The post office began its management of the grants payment system on April 1, but CPS is expected to continue servicing cash beneficiaries until the end of September.
Speaking to members of Parliament in February, Lindiwe Kwele, group COO at the SA Post Office, said that grant recipients would have "one free card replacement per annum, three free merchant withdrawals, one free balance enquiry per month, one free mini-statement per month and one free three-month statement".
But at the launch on Tuesday, Sassa acting CEO Pearl Bengu announced that government would be "absorbing" all the card's transactional charges. "The new card will prevent fraudulent transactions, as [the Post Office] will not allow unauthorised debits," she said.
No deductions for loans, airtime, electricity, life policies or funeral plans will be allowed on the Postbank accounts. Since 2013, the Black Sash has been advocating that deductions made automatically and directly from beneficiaries' accounts be stopped.
The Black Sash's Amanda Ismail told GroundUp on Thursday that her organisation welcomed the launch of the new cards. She added that activists "would have liked to see a demonstration of how the card worked". Ismail said they would continue to monitor the process when the card swap commences countrywide next month.
According to Sassa "the card swapping process will take place in phases based on the type of grant you receive. This will happen at identified venues such as community halls, local Sassa offices and the post office. Further details will be communicated soon".
The agency reiterated that the current cards have not expired and that "the green card is not a Sassa card". If you wish to cancel your green card, call Net1 on 0860994162 and return to Sassa to reapply for a Sassa card, the agency said.