The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has admitted that a catastrophic systems failure has resulted in beneficiaries going empty-handed. In an attempt to alleviate frustrations and hunger, Sassa has begun handing out food vouchers.
July is the first month whereby the South African Post Office (SAPO) is tasked with distributing funds on behalf of Sassa. The change in administrative capacities follows controversy surrounding previous fund managers, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
In a twist of events, beneficiaries who previously complained about CPS’s alleged nominal fund deductions, are now furious with new custodians SAPO’s perceived incompetence.
Fundamental grievances relate to a nationwide system failure resulting in a payment backlog. Sassa CEO, Abraham Mahlangu, has explained that the revised digital system has not been able to cope with the 900 000 newly registered recipients.
Mahlangu guaranteed receivers that the system performance would improve, and subsequently, the backlog would be addressed. At first, the CEO promised results by Wednesday but has now asked for more time, committing to a system update by Friday.
Speaking on the system failure, Mahlangu said:
“The rebooted system that is now working is definitely going to clear the backlog. I’m monitoring the system on an hourly basis nationally.”
With beneficiaries still unable to collect social welfare funds, the situation is now becoming dire. Pensioners, disabled recipients and single mothers are all complaining bitterly that they are unable to pay rent or buy groceries.
Mahlangu announced that Sassa was activating relief measures in the form of food stamps at selected offices around the country, saying:
“Queues are not clearing fast enough, we will activate the relief measures and this will take the form of food vouchers so our people cannot go home without anything to put on the table today.”
According to recipients and analysts alike, this is a short-term fix for a persistent problem, leading to further frustration and disillusionment amongst South Africa’s most vulnerable.
Beneficiaries, although appreciative of food parcels, have bemoaned the fact that they cannot buy electricity or pay rent with food parcels. Money is needed for expenses which are already piling up five days into the month.
The distress caused by continuous delays is leading to widespread panic, with beneficiaries fearing the unknown.
Blame was also being levelled at striking Sassa employees. The Public Servants Association won a court bid on Wednesday, ordering a wage renegotiation with Sassa. PSA has denied allegations that their wage dispute crippled service delivery.
Mahlangu has promised recipients that he will keep them informed on any further developments.