Come April 1, beneficiaries will receive their social grants, but the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) will still need the help of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to make it happen.

Sassa announced in a joint press conference with the South African Post Office (Sapo) on Thursday that the two had made strides to ensure that South Africa’s 17-million grant beneficiaries will be paid on time.

“We are pleased to announce a significant state of readiness for (Sapo) to commence payment on social grants and ensure South Africans that social grants will be paid on April 1,” Pearl Bhengu, acting Sassa chief executive said.

Bhengu said that since January 2018, Sassa has begun a pilot program, with the help of Sapo, where grant beneficiaries are paid directly into their personal accounts held at commercial banks or through the Postbank held at Sapo.

By April 1, Bhengu said, 5.7-million beneficiaries will have already received their payment through Sassa’s partnership with Sapo and without the use of CPS.

But there is a snag.

Around 26% (2.8-million) of the beneficiaries receive their payments in cash at a designated paypoint. According to Bhengu, most of the beneficiaries are elderly or people with disabilities. But Sassa does not yet have a system to pay these people their grants without CPS.

“It is for this distribution of cash where Sassa still requires support,” Bhengu said.

Sassa has asked the Constitutional Court to allow it to continue working with CPS, whose contract with Sassa was earlier invalidated by the court, for the next six months. The social security agency has asked for an extension of the court’s deadline to end the contract, which was meant to end in March, to allow for the phasing out of CPS and the phasing in of a new service provider who will distribute the grants at paypoints.

Cash payments, according to Sassa, will be made through the CPS infrastructure until September.

Bhengu said the social security agency is also in the process of finding a cash payment service provider who will distribute grants through a new Sassa/Sapo card at all paypoints. The agency has also already gone to tender to find a new service provider to distribute cash payment grants.

Sapo chief executive Mark Barnes was also confident of the Post Office’s capacity to undertake the mammoth task.

“The Post Office is ready to play its role in the payment of social grants,” he said.

“An increasing number of beneficiaries have also already opened Postbank accounts between January and February 2018,” he said.

Barnes said that the Postbank account will assist beneficiaries in that: there will be no deductions, there will be one free balance enquiry each month, one free mini statement each month, and the first replacement card will be free.

Bhengu assured grant beneficiaries that the current Sassa card will remain working until September 30. She urged beneficiaries to ignore anyone who offers them an alternative card.

In the meantime, the Concourt has reserved judgement on whether it will extend Sassa’s contract with CPS.