Pen­sioner tells of il­licit grant de­duc­tions

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SAKHILE NDLAZI

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.

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