Court to rule on grants deductions
An 89-year-old pensioner had a total of R4 391 wrongly deducted from his pension for nine months.
Pensioner Sipho Bani spent over R400 to stop the deductions, which are still yet to be fully reimbursed.
Bani is among six pensioners who will argue in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein today that the state has a constitutional responsibility and obligation to protect poor social grant beneficiaries from exploitation, which has seen them experience unauthorised and unlawful deductions.
Another pensioner, Vepi Nkosi, 67, was threatened that she would not receive her pension grant if she did not take up the Easy Pay Everywhere (EPE) card which was presented to her as a Sassa replacement card.
Nkosi, however, started seeing R10 deductions being made from her account through the card every month.
The court will hear human rights organisation Black Sash's and the South African Social Security Agency's appeals against a North Gauteng High Court judgment which permitted social grant payment provider Net1 Applied Technologies' subsidiaries to continue making deductions from the grant recipient's bank accounts.
The North Gauteng High Court ruled in May last year that social grant beneficiaries should not be restricted on how they use their bank accounts, which are held by Net1 Applied Technologies' subsidiary Grindrod.
The matter had been brought to court by Net1 and its subsidiaries, including Cash Paymaster Services which distributes grants, against the agency and the social development department following the revised Regulations 21 and 26A of the Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004, published in May 2016.
The amended regulations are aimed at stopping such deductions. They allow one deduction per month which must not exceed 10% of the value of the social grant for a funeral policy.
It sought to restrict other deductions such as loan repayments, prepaid electricity and airtime, several funeral and life cover policies among others on accounts. In court papers, Black Sash argues that social grants should not be used to service debt.
Nomonde Nyembe, an attorney from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, which represented Black Sash, Bani and other five pensioners filed an affidavit which stated that social grants got "unjustifiably depleted" due to the deductions.
Net1 Applied Technologies and its subsidiaries have argued that they should be entitled to have access to the Sassa bank accounts and that grant beneficiaries should have the right to buy any service.
Oral arguments on the matter will be heard in court today.
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