Lapsed state pensions will be reinstated with backpay on November 1

An elderly women waits for her state pension in a long queue at a Sassa paypoint. Many pensioners in the Bay have not received their money for two months
An elderly women waits for her state pension in a long queue at a Sassa paypoint. Many pensioners in the Bay have not received their money for two months

More than 200 state pension fund beneficiaries in Nelson Mandela Bay who have not received their grants for the past two months will receive relief on November 1, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) says.

The managers of homes for the elderly around the Bay spoke out earlier this week about the situation, which has resulted in economic hardship and trauma for many of their residents.

Asked when these pension grants plus backpay would be paid, Sassa spokesperson Luzuko Qina said on Wednesday the problem had been related to bank verification processes that needed to be finalised.

“Bank verification for the affected beneficiaries from the Echo Foundation and other centres totalling 262 cases has been completed and monies will be paid during the next payment cycle beginning on November 1 with effect from September 2019.”

Bank verification was done by the agency on a monthly basis and it was necessary  to ensure that the details of the account holder on the Sassa system matched those of the beneficiary, he said.

“This is as result of fraudulent activities wherein banking details of beneficiaries are changed without the consent of beneficiaries.”

During the bank verification process social grant payments were withheld and the affected beneficiaries were required to present themselves for assistance to their nearest Sassa office with their identification documents and current bank statements indicating their correct banking details, he said.

“Sassa wishes to apologise unreservedly for any inconvenience this has caused as it is the necessary step of ensuring that we curb the fraud that the agency is experiencing.”

Echo Foundation CEO Ken Keen said on Thursday he was delighted to hear the news.

“We are very pleased and grateful. We do hope it will be on time, however, as previous payment promises related to this matter were not fulfilled.”

Correspondence seen last week by The Herald indicated that by October 7 the Echo Foundation had sent Sassa confirmation of their paypoint account number and a list of the affected residents and their identification numbers five times with no resolution of the problem.

While the local Sassa office had been helpful, little response had been received from the provincial office and the matter remained unresolved.

After the first payment failed to arrive on September 1, promises were made that a double payment would be made on October 1 but this did not happen.

Speaking last week, Keen said 80 of their residents in nine homes in Bay suburbs as well as in Walmer Township had not received their state pensions since September 1.

The Echo Foundation management team had met residents from each of the homes run by the organisation to discuss the situation, he said.

“The beneficiaries affected are struggling without food or support from family and for some it is affecting their rental payments and causing them great concern.”

The foundation had never since it was founded in 1991 turned anybody out but it was a business and if it failed because basic payments could not be made then many more residents and the retirement community in general would be affected so it was an untenable situation, he said.

Echo Foundation social services manager Joey Lohuis said residents who had not received their Sassa pensions had been hard hit.

“Their budgets for food and other daily necessities have been affected. For many their families are living overseas and they can’t rely on them for help. People are struggling.”

Framing the immediate crisis, in an economy where children and grandchildren were losing their jobs, an increasing number of elderly parents and grandparents were relying on state grants, she said.

Echo Foundation general manager Lillian Swanepoel said they had already helped 30 residents through the foundation’s benevolent fund to tide them over the non-receipt of the state pension grants but it was not a sustainable solution.

Methodist Homes manager Hein Barnard said the Sassa payment problem in the Bay reflected the plight of elderly people in suburbs and townships across SA who had no platform or voice to air their views or concerns.

“We are talking about someone’s mom or dad. They built the country up and now they are nobody.”

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