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Grants back in court

The social grant saga returns to court on Wednesday as civil rights group the Black Sash and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) fight to halt deductions from the accounts of beneficiaries.

In May last year the high court ruled that Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) could continue to deduct money for airtime, loans and electricity from social grant beneficiaries.

Now the Supreme Court of Appeal is being asked to rule either that the regulations, which were amended two years ago, prevent the likes of Net1 subsidiaries from making deductions on accounts for grant recipients, or to amend the regulations if they are not clear enough to forbid them from making these deductions.

Social grants are administered by Sassa, which uses CPS, a subsidiary of Net1 UEPS Technologies.

Black Sash national advocacy manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker said the case is important because it deals with the most vulnerable in society, whose personal data have been breached and who suffer when deductions are made from their grants.

Numerous grant recipients have complained about the deductions; some are left with only half of their grants. They have found it difficult to establish which company is making the deductions.

The judgment will affect how 10-million beneficiaries use their bank accounts and how about R550-million reaches them each month.

“The challenge is against the regulation. In 2016, the minister amended the regulations, which stated that no deductions are allowed. But the private companies interpreted it differently, saying that it is a bank account and beneficiaries have the dignity to be able to choose who makes deductions from their accounts,” said Abrahams-Fayker.

Judge CJ van der Westhuizen ruled last year that the recipients have a contractual relationship with Grindrod, the bankCPS pays the grants to, and that no relationship exists between the bank and Sassa.

“The debit order levied against a recipient’s bank account is nothing other than payment of a legitimate debt,” Van der Westhuizen ruled.

Abrahams-Fayker said, if the court does not grant the appeal,it must amend the regulations to ensure beneficiaries get their full grants. 

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Athandiwe Saba
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession.

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