Mandela’s comrades have dropped the ball on fighting poverty
For some citizens, the monthly grant is what literally stands between going to bed hungry and a dignified life.
Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
These are the words of Nelson Mandela, who must surely be turning in his grave as the people he referred to as his comrades have constantly acted in a way that takes away the right to dignity and decent life of the most vulnerable in South African society: the Sassa grant beneficiaries.
Social grant recipients who get their grants through Postbank went home to face hunger and loan sharks because the government says there was “a glitch” in the Postbank system that caused grants not to be paid.
This is not the first time such a glitch has occurred, so the government is not being unfairly crucified over an unusual glitch. In fact, since November 2022, this is the third time “a glitch” has been blamed for failure to pay grants. This is in addition to the hacking incident that also disrupted grant payments.
The regularity with which these grants are failing to reach the recipients can only lead to the conclusion that those in charge of fixing the system do not see their jobs as protecting the right to a life of dignity of the poor.
Communications Minister Mondli Gungubele has gone on the offensive this past week, heaping all sorts of blame on the board of directors of Postbank, whom he accuses of acts of criminality in the way they have handled some of the contracts that they entered into to shore up the software of the grant payment system.
If he is right – and the problem with the grant payment system lies in the fact that Postbank has appointed an incompetent company to look after their software – then he must not only direct his righteous anger at seeing to it that those responsible face criminal charges, he must direct all of his department’s resources towards building a more than resilient grant payment system.
It is sad and quite damaging to grant recipients’ dignity that they must bear their souls on national television for the world to see that they are going to bed hungry because some government official did not do their job.
The constitution protects the right to a life of dignity for all citizens, so no one should have to perform their poverty on a national stage to get the government to act.
The speed with which the government wanted to strip security company G4S of its contract after the embarrassing Thabo Bester escape should be applied to Postbank’s disastrous handling of grant “system glitches”.
It is important to note that there are more capable private industry companies that have the capacity to pay grants without regularly stripping grant recipients of their dignity.
But, those options are not being explored because the cheque for the overall running of the grant payment system is substantial and cannot be written out to the private sector. And the poor suffer because of this.
Almost half of SA lives below the poverty line, and studies show that over 18 million people experience food poverty.
For some citizens, the monthly grant is what literally stands between going to bed hungry and a dignified life. SA boasts of some of the world’s best banking technology, but the state does not use this to alleviate poverty.
Mandela’s comrades have dropped the ball on fighting poverty.
Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits