By Wilmaré du Buisson
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa boasted on 2 September this year that there is no other country on the continent that supports 18 million people with monthly allowances and he would like to extend this allowance to a further 10 million people.
His words were hardly cold when more than 500,000 beneficiaries could not withdraw their monthly SASSA allowances due to “technical problems”.
They had to scramble for days, make arrangements, get into debt, walk miles to ATMs and even sleep on the streets to get their allowances.
Mondli Gungubele, Minister of Communications, tried to shift the attention of the problem at a media conference last week by trying to get the population excited about the developing State Bank which will be more accessible to the poor than all the other commercial banks.
However, it is difficult to believe and be excited about it when one looks at other state institutions that fail to fulfill their responsibilities. Currently, the Post Bank offers limited savings accounts, mainly for people receiving allowance. The government would like to expand the Post Bank into the State Bank which aims to provide full banking services.
In an attempt to give more clarity on the recent “technical problems”, the director of the Post Bank, Ntomboxolo Nikki Mbengashe, revealed that with new systems that need to be put in place for the State Bank to get back on its feet, is it impossible in the technological world to prevent all “technical problems”. All she could do was apologize.
Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, also apologized because the most vulnerable part of the population is once again a victim of flawed systems in South Africa. It is very clear that the deterioration of systems and institutions managed by the South African government repeatedly hits the most vulnerable people first and hardest. And our ministers just shrug their shoulders. For Helping Hand it all means nothing.
If the government really had the social well-being of the vulnerable people’s interests at heart, the embarrassment for the government would have been too great to allow these “technical problems” to happen repeatedly. Our government does not know how to look after the social well-being of our vulnerable population. On the contrary, they prefer to repeatedly disappoint millions of people with empty promises. This just so they can set up another state institution that is lacking.
These people are extremely dependent on a monthly budget, every penny is part of a cost that must satisfy a need. Some of the pensioners who were affected were without the money they needed to survive for a week. This causes them to have to make desperate decisions that will only further impoverish them in the future.
So our government watches as our defenseless people are further impoverished and weakened while they only have an excuse to offer. Late or non-payment of allowances is a clear violation of citizens’ rights to life and dignity, and this cannot be tolerated.
Solidarity Helping Hand requests the government to review their contracts and processes and that the people responsible for the crises and challenges that exist must resolve them to prevent this from happening again. We also request that the officials deal with the grant of beneficiaries with wisdom and dignity.
- Wilmaré du Buisson is a researcher at Solidarity Helping Hand.