Post office adds cashless ATMs to expand payments network

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The post office unveiled its cashless ATM to pay SASSA grants in Rustenburg yesterday. (Source: Twitter)
The post office unveiled its cashless ATM to pay SASSA grants in Rustenburg yesterday. (Source: Twitter)

The South African Post Office (SAPO) has forged ahead with plans to roll out more than 10 000 cashless ATMs, to relieve its cash distribution pain point of SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants.

Among the worries when SAPO was awarded the SASSA contract was that it would need an exhaustive footprint to reach all social grant beneficiaries, especially those in deep rural areas.

Following a pilot project in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), SAPO yesterday unveiled its first cashless ATMs in Bojanala local municipality in Rustenburg, serving as additional payment points for SASSA grants.

The launch was attended by the deputy ministers of the Presidency, Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), North West MEC for social development and Rustenburg executive mayor.

The cashless ATMs are similar to traditional ATMs, in that a social grant recipient can either withdraw or use the device as a point of sale device to transact in spaza shops, with township and rural area merchants.

Digital leap

CIO Refilwe Kekana recently told ITWeb the cashless ATMs are part of SAPO’s digital offering in distributing social grants, adding the aim is to roll out the devices nationally by the end of the year.

How it works is that once a beneficiary reaches a spaza shop, for example, they will have to insert the SASSA card into the ATM card slot and use their SASSA card PIN to initiate a transaction. This will be followed by selecting an amount to be debited on the card, and if the debit is successful, the cashless ATM will print out two slips, for the merchant and customer, confirming the debit.

The customer will hand over the merchant slip to the spaza shop, and in exchange, the merchant will give the customer cash or goods to the value of the withdrawal.

The ATM devices can be used to purchase prepaid electricity and airtime, pay municipality bills and balance inquiries. Further planned transactions include insurance activations and payments, money transfer, ticketing and transport solutions.

DCDT deputy minister Pinky Kekana says the cashless ATM solution aligns with the department’s mandate to foster economic inclusion through technology innovations. “The cashless ATM solution has multiple benefits for society and will contribute to decongesting the current SASSA grants payment points.”

Presidency deputy minister Thembi Siweya adds: “We support innovative initiatives in society, especially those that will improve service delivery in government. This solution promises to deliver multiple benefits for our society. Among others, it will promote the local economy and empower informal traders, reduce the travelling cost for beneficiaries and decongest the current pay points.”

Tech hiccup

Meanwhile, SASSA has apologised for inconvenience caused by a technical glitch experienced in KZN yesterday, which affected the payment of 450 000 old age social grant recipients.

While the agency didn’t provide specifics of the glitch, it said the affected recipients are less than 10% of beneficiaries who were supposed to be paid.

“SASSA technicians have been working tirelessly since last night to resolve the problem so that these beneficiaries can be able to access their grants.

“As a short-term measure, the South African Post Office will be doing manual payments to decrease the impact of the problem in affected areas. SASSA has also roped in BankServ to assist with speeding up the process of crediting the affected accounts.”

SASSA notes that challenges come as it started staggering grant payments to decrease the amount of people collecting different grant types at stores and ATMs.

“In terms of this new arrangement, older persons and disability grants will be paid on 4 and 5 May, and all other grant types will be paid from 6 May. Child grants which are to be paid from Wednesday, 6 May will not be affected at all and SASSA appeals to that category of beneficiaries (child support grants) not to attempt drawing money today [Monday] or tomorrow [Tuesday].

“In the past, the payment of grants started on the first of the month and attracted huge numbers of people to payment facilities. In the current situation, things need to be done differently due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” it says in a statement.

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