Pensioner tells of illicit grant deductions
HAVING spent 40 years as a farm worker, Nomvo Ngejeni had not banked on standing in a queue once a month in the early hours of the morning to collect her social grant.
Now aged 73, she had thought she would take things easy after retiring, knowing her three children would have secured good paying jobs and supporting themselves and their children.
To her surprise, she has assumed the role of a parent; only this time she is looking after her grandchildren after their parents died due to illnesses.
“All my savings are depleted from supporting my grandchildren. We are solely reliant on the social grants,” she said. “My kids left me with nothing, but the grants are lessening the burden.”
Her only surviving daughter, Gladys, 40, is unemployed.
Ngejeni said the picture would be much worse were it not for the government grant for older persons and the child support grant she received every month.
She was relating her story at a social grant pay-point in Bizana, Eastern Cape, where the new chief executive of Net1 Universal Electronic Payment Systems (UEPS) Herman Kotze conducted a site visit.
Ngejeni said she woke at around 4am to get a lift, for which she paid every month, to make it to the pay-point at around 7am.
Her grandchildren are aged 5, 7, 13 and 15. They live in a three-room mud house in Bizana.
They, too, receive a foster child grant of R830 each, but most of it was spent on putting them through school.
Expenses include uniforms, stationery, food and healthcare. With rising food prices, the family is struggling to make ends meet.
About “R1 000 is spent on groceries every month. I buy one bag of frozen chicken, canned goods and two tubes of toothpaste,” Ngejeni said. “We ate dry phuthu and drank tea last night.”
Toilet paper is not considered a necessity to the family; so they use cut-out pages from the telephone directory. With the bare necessities, she cooks one meal a day.
She said meat was a luxury and her grandchildren knew that supper was whatever she could throw together with whatever was available. “It’s nothing fancy, but it’s edible and filling. As long as my grandchildren don’t go to bed hungry, I’m happy,” she said.
Although she appreciated her R1 600 grant, she complained about unknown deductions on her grant for the past couple of months.
She said she had been receiving R1 410 and did not know why.
“I hear the same story that I buy electricity and airtime. We do not have electricity in our village and I do not own a phone.”
In 2012, Sassa awarded the five-year R10 billion contract to pay social grants to Cash Payment Services, a subsidiary of Net1 UEPS Technologies.
Later that same year, grant recipients around the country began to complain about a noticeable rise in what have come to be called “deductions”.
This is a catch-all term to describe deductions of money – for airtime, electricity, insurance and loans – from grant beneficiaries’ bank accounts.
A large majority of her community is dependent on social grants.
Most make use of money lenders to get through the month.
A Statistics SA survey found that provincially, the Eastern Cape, with 59.1% households and 58% in Limpopo, were most reliant on social grants.
Ngejeni was one of many to complain that the social grants, although helpful, did not increase with inflation.
“My biggest concern is how my grandchildren will live when I pass away. Will the social money be enough to sustain them?” she asked.
Sakhile Ndlazi was in Bizana on a sponsored trip on invitation by Net1.
WORRIED: Nomvo Ngejeni, 73, at the Bizana, Eastern Cape paypoint.