Sassa head office. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images, file)
The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) will be reviewing the grants it pays to 580 recipients in Walvis Bay, Namibia, following concerns about social benefits being claimed in two countries at once and payments being made even after a person has died.
Some social grants are also on hold at present because of a bank verification process in which a different country’s ID is reflected to the one on Sassa’s system.
A News24 reader shared that his 95-year-old mother in Walvis Bay and many other elderly people had not been paid their Sassa grants since November.
The man, who did not want to be identified for fear of his mother being victimised, said she had a South African ID and permanent residency in Namibia.
‘Lacking in coherent government’
He had struggled to get an explanation from the Sassa offices there and in Cape Town.
His mom was “fiercely independent”, had been a widow for around 10 years, and had recovered after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.
“She is a strong woman who should not have to be demoralised and stressed out like this by a system which is simply just lacking in coherent government and reliability,” he said.
“My mother is very fortunate to have two children who can look after her in her old age, but there are many, many old people who cannot say the same thing.
“Just imagine those sitting in old age homes, in rooms they must rent, needing to buy medicine. These old people cannot speak for themselves and some can’t even walk.”
Sassa communications manager Shivani Wahab told News24 some social grant payments were on hold because of discrepancies during a process where banks had to confirm that beneficiary details were correct.
The number of affected people was not immediately available.
“With some of the Walvis Bay beneficiaries, they opened accounts with their Namibian IDs whereas on the [social pension] system their South African IDs are reflected which resulted in a no-match and a hold placed on the social grant,” Wahab said.
Beneficiaries had to provide Sassa with both IDs and a letter from the bank to confirm their bank details so the system could be updated, and the money released.
South African citizens living in Namibia receive grants in terms of an agreement between both governments as Walvis Bay is a former South African colony.
Based on this legislation, some Walvis Bay residents obtained dual citizenship and were possibly receiving social grants from both countries.
“This concept also known as ‘double dipping’, where a person benefits or profits from two separate social grants, is legally prohibited,” Wahab said.
“An additional complexity to the issue of dual citizenship is that those beneficiaries who have passed away are still in payment of social grants as South Africa has no record of their deaths, which has resulted in possible over payments.”
Sassa was preparing for a full social grants review process that would start at a central venue in Namibia on March 4.
This would allow it to update relevant information, validate suspicious beneficiaries, verify errors and fraudulent beneficiaries, and ascertain that beneficiaries were still alive.
“A social grant review will further allow Sassa to determine whether the continuation of the social grant is justified if the beneficiaries’ circumstances have changed.”