After Wednesday’s announcement in Parliament that the South African Post Office (SAPO) will be closing a whopping 130 branches across the country over the coming months, concerns have been raised about the impact of measure on SASSA grant beneficiaries who collect their money from them.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) have demanded that the Department of Social Development provide information regarding how they plan to ensure that the thousands of affected SASSA beneficiaries continue to receive their cheques, with alternative means of doing so – such as an online portal prone to bugs and downtime – inaccessible to many of those who rely on the State’s financial stimulus.
SAPO CEO announces widespread branch closures
SAPO Chief Executive Officer Nomkhitha Mona said on Wednesday that the primary reason for closing so many Post Offices relates to the cash-strapped SEO’s financial collapse. He added that the delay in closing down the full 130 Post Offices earmarked for closure is the result of tenancy contract obligations.
“Now we are left with 80 post offices, those are the ones that we are still looking into closing. I think what is important to note is that sometimes we do have to respect the current contracts that we have with the landlords because if we just step out of it immediately we then prone to penalties,” he said.
“So we are doing that in a staggered form so the number is 80 to go and the target was 130 so we have to close some of those,” said Mona.
SASSA grant beneficiaries ‘left in the lurch’
The DA’s Shadow Minister of Social Development, Bridget Masango, said in a statement on Thursday 27 May that the closures could have “catastrophic” consequences to already vulnerable SASSA beneficiaries. She said that the DA will be submitting parliamentary questions to the Departments of Social Development and Communications to find out what contingency plans have been put in place.
“The closure of SAPO branches could be potentially catastrophic to the distribution of social grants. SAPO was ultimately awarded the contract to distribute grants exactly because of its wide footprint through the country and its ability to reach millions of poor South Africans in the most rural of communities. The closure of these cash distribution points will potentially leave vulnerable grant recipients in a lurch,” she said.
She demanded that both SAPO and SASSA must urgently provide clarity on the following issues:
- Which Post Offices have and are being closed;
- Criteria used in categorising and identifying which branches to close;
- How postal services will be impacted in affected communities;
- The extent to which social grants payment will be at risk; and
- Contingency plans to mitigate risks.
“Poor South Africans cannot continue to pay the price for mismanaged, poorly operated and corrupt SOEs,” said Masango.
“The closure of these Post Offices is yet another classic example of how poorly the ANC government runs SEOs, and unfortunately, as is often the case, it is the poor and vulnerable who bear the brunt,” she said.