The Democratic Alliance has urged the ministers of Digital Technologies and Communications and Social Development to reverse the decision by the South African Post Office (SAPO) to stop paying out the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant at its branches.
The opposition party said that the post office must continue with payments or face legal action.
The SAPO said in a statement on Tuesday (10 May), that it will no longer pay the R350 grant as a part of its efforts to alleviate long queues at its branches.
Instead, grant beneficiaries will be able to collect their money from a number of supermarket chains countrywide after the post office noted that a new round of applications for the R350 grant has opened, it said.
“The application app now includes an option where beneficiaries can receive their grant from any Pick n Pay, Boxer, Shoprite, Checkers or USave merchant. The SA Post Office strongly advises beneficiaries to include this option: Post Office branches will no longer pay out SRD grants.
“If you have already reapplied for your SRD grant, you can still select the option to collect your grant from any Pick n Pay, Boxer, Shoprite, Checkers or USave. Log on to srd.sassa.gov.za and respond to the security SMS you receive on your phone. You can then include merchants in your application and submit the updated application,” it said.
This move, the DA said, will disadvantage millions of poor South Africans who rely on this grant to provide for their families by forcing them to incur unnecessary additional travel expenses to access this grant outside of the communities they live in.
“Many rural communities struggle with access to Post Office branches as more and more branches are closed countrywide.”
It said that the insistence by SAPO that its decision to stop paying the social relief grant at its branches will help “alleviate long queues” is not good enough.
“At a time when the cost of living is at an all-time high, poor South Africans need their government to provide them with the relief they need to make ends meet, instead of suffocating them with additional expenses, all in pursuit of reducing long queues.
“The long queues at Post Office branches are a result of the entity’s chronic inefficiency, shortage of staff and obsolete technological infrastructure and not because of the beneficiaries of the social relief grants. To blame those queue on the latter is to gaslight poor South Africans.”
The DA said it will leverage all the parliamentary channels to oppose this move “and if needs be, we will pursue legal action”.
Data published by the Department of Social Development showed that approximately 10 million people depend on the R350 special Covid-19 grant.
The post office pointed out that beneficiaries must have their own mobile phone number to withdraw their grant at supermarkets. “Beneficiaries will be assisted to reset card pins at the cash pay points. The card can then be used at merchants at ATMs.”
It stressed that SASSA beneficiaries who receive old age, disability or child grants can still collect their grants from any post office branch.